KETTERING — After winning five tournament matches without losing a set, Versailles couldn’t keep up with Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy and lost 25-20, 25-21, 25-20 in a Division III regional final on Saturday at Trent Arena in Kettering.
The Tigers had won all their tournament matches 3-0, including a 25-15, 27-25, 25-23 victory over Cincinnati McNicholas in a regional semifinal on Thursday.
“They are such a good team but we knew that coming in,” Versailles coach Kenzie Bruggeman said of CHCA following the match. “All we asked was the girls just to battle and to look at the games, to look at the scores and what situations we’re in and we battled.”
“That was just a fun game and yes it does sting. It is not fun to have to leave this gym knowing that we don’t get to go to practice next week but the girls have seen such a change in the value of trusting the process. It was fun to be able to compete today.”
Versailles took a 3-0 lead to open play but the Eagles scored unanswered points to lead 6-3. The Tigers battled back to knot the score a 6-6 and 7-7 before CHCA ran away late to a 25-20 win.
“The girls showed just so much grit,” Bruggeman stated. “You look at the whole entire season — we obviously didn’t do well in the (Midwest Athletic Conference). We kept using the experience and the girls just aren’t quite up to speed and they showed they were today.”
“They just really believed in themselves. They didn’t count themselves out and they stayed focused on what they could control regardless of the point difference and they just battled.”
The Tigers grabbed a 13-9 second set lead before CHCA came back and tied it 13-13. Versailles moved back on top 15-13 but the Eagles then scored the next two points to tie it again. The Tigers went back up 17-15 in what would prove to be the team’s last lead of the set with CHCA taking the second set by a 25-21 score.
“Brynn Briscoe has been our consistent server all season — that’s why we start in the rotation where we start so that she can be the first one back there,” Bruggeman said. “To see that poise from her and to see that control in such a high stake game only being a sophomore is something really awesome to see especially as a coach.”
Set No. 3 mirrored the opening game with the Tigers opening with a 3-0 lead followed by six consecutive points by the Eagles, which forced Bruggeman to call a timeout.
With Versailles trailing 10-8, CHCA reeled off five consecutive points to lead 15-8 with the Tigers calling for a second timeout.
The Tigers battled back to tie the game at 18-18 but it proved to be CHCA’s day as the Eagles answered with five straight points on their way to a 25-20 third set win.
“There were so many girls that stepped up today,” Bruggeman said. “Kaylee Braun just had kills that we haven’t seen from her all year and Emma George taking on that leadership role, Kirsten Bomholt making smart plays, Jenna Marshal getting some big blocks — the girls left it all out there.”
Versailles finishes 13-14 overall. The squad, which finished seventh in the MAC with a 2-7 record, will lose five seniors to graduation: libero Abby Stammen, right side Natalie Dirksen, defensive specialists Kate Griesdorn and Darian Feltz and George, a middle hitter.
“Darian Feltz and Natalie Dirksen; both of those girls were dressing and playing on the JV last year,” Bruggeman said. “To see the plays Natalie made especially in this tournament season, her growth is truly unbelievable and then Darian just coming in clutch here right in the last game, being able to get those serves, she was one of our main people today that got us some chunks.”
“Emma George, Kate Griesdorn and Abby Stammen — we noticed their potential when they were freshmen. They were all playing varsity as sophomores so they have been a part of that success so to see that leadership go from all five of them it is always so sad but it makes me really pumped to know that they’re going to be able to take on the world now especially with the season that we had. They are going to be able to use the principals that we learned through this process.”
George led Versailles with 11 kills on Saturday. Feltz had two aces, Braun and George each had two blocks, Stammen had 19 digs and Brynne Briscoe had 25 assists.
In Thursday’s semifinal win over McNicholas, George had 17 kills while Bomholt had 11 and Jenna Mashal had 10. Stammen had three aces, George had three blocks, Stammen had 15 digs and Briscoe had 40 assists.
Gaylen Blosser is the sports editor of the Greenville Daily Advocate. Contact Blosser at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 569-0122