VANDALIA — New Bremen’s five senior volleyball players have helped set up a dynasty in Division IV the last four years. Only one team has stood in the way of complete domination by the Cardinals in that time: Tiffin Calvert.
The Senecas took another step toward setting up their own dynasty in the Div. IV state championship match on Sunday at Vandalia-Butler’s Student Activity Center.
Calvert beat New Bremen 20-25, 25-23, 25-22, 25-21 to earn its second D-IV title in the last three years.
It was the fourth consecutive state final appearance for the Cardinals, which won titles in 2017 and 2019.
“I feel like we have a lot of similarities,” fifth-year New Bremen coach Diana Kramer said. “(Calvert) plays with a lot of heart. They come out, they play aggressively, they don’t make mistakes and they play with a lot of heart. We both have great setters and attackers, and we both are so proud to represent the towns we play for.
“We knew coming in it was going to be a great match. Unfortunately, somebody had to lose.”
New Bremen’s only other tournament defeat in the last four years was a 3-2 loss to Calvert in the 2018 D-IV state final.
“If I had to use one word to describe it, it has been a blessing,” senior middle hitter Elli Roetgerman, who had 13 kills, said. “Not many people get half as far as we’ve gotten, and I’ve been here all four years.
“Two of the years I left smiling and cheering, and two of the years I left defeated, but it’s a blessing both ways.”
New Bremen (25-4) scored the first five points in the first game before the Senecas tied it 10-10 after three consecutive kills by Emma White and a New Bremen attack error. The teams traded points until New Bremen scored four consecutive points late to take a 21-17 lead.
After the Cardinals put away the first set, they scored nine of 10 points during a stretch in the middle of the second set to take a 20-12 lead.
But they couldn’t hang on, as Calvert (28-0) made several impressive defensive saves to stay alive and took advantage of four errors by New Bremen to tie it 20-20.
After Kramer called a timeout, a defensive error by New Bremen and a kill by Caroline Lanicek capped off a 12-0 run to give the Senecas a 22-20 lead. The squads then traded points the rest of the set to tie the match 1-1.
“I should have done something differently,” Kramer said. “Called timeouts in a different spot, put somebody in a different position.
“It really, really sucks. It really, really hurts because we were in control and in the driver’s seat and unfortunately, we took a break. We didn’t stay focused and we didn’t play to win; we were playing to hopefully win.”
The teams stayed close throughout the third game and played to a 22-22 tie. The Senecas scored the last three points to win the match thanks to two attack errors by New Bremen and a kill by Camryn Shook.
Like the second set, New Bremen went on a big run in the middle of the fourth set to build a 15-7 lead. But Calvert once again came up with a series of impressive defensive plays to stay alive and took advantage of six errors by the Cardinals to battle back and tie it 18-18.
The teams traded points to a 20-20 score, the Maddie Shumacher came up with a kill on a hard spike and Kate Rombach served an ace to give the Senecas a 22-20 lead. The teams traded points to a 23-21 score before Calvert scored the last two points to win.
“I thought until the ball hit the ground that we were going to win,” Kramer said. “We expect to win at New Bremen. Unfortunately we didn’t, but that’s because Tiffin Calvert continued to fight, continued to stay focused.
“… It’s not fun when you’re so close to that dream. However, I told them this medal signifies so many memories. It may not be the color we want it to be, however, we are incredibly proud. This is something people cannot take away from us the rest of our lives. The memories will be there.”
Aside from Roetgerman, New Bremen will lose defensive specialist Diana Heitkamp, outside hitter Josie Reinhart, setter Claire Pape, defensive specialist Abi Powers and defensive specialist Katie Howell to graduation. Heitkamp, Reinhart and Pape were first team all-Midwest Athletic Conference selections.
Reinhart led New Bremen with 15 kills on Sunday while Heitkamp had a team-high three aces and 23 digs and Pape had a team-high 41 assists.
Despite Sunday’s loss, Heitkamp said the seniors are proud of earning state final berths each of the last four years.
“It’s a feeling I can’t even describe, because it’s just unbelievable the amount of excitement and emotion that you go throw,” Heitkamp said. “… Right now it’s sadness, but we’re going to look back knowing, even in a couple of months, that we did it, we made it all four years.
“I played with girls that I loved and that I grew up with and was best friends with, and I will take those relationships with me the rest of the my life.”
It’s the third consecutive year the programs have met in postseason play. New Bremen beat Calvert 3-1 in a regional final last season.
Sunday’s loss concluded a big weekend for New Bremen fall sports squads. The school’s football team beat Lima Central Catholic in a Div. VII state semifinal on Friday to earn its first state final berth, and the volleyball squad beat Newark Catholic 25-18, 25-16, 22-25, 25-13 in a semifinal on Saturday in Vandalia.
“I want to thank the entire community for being behind us,” Kramer said. “It’s a great time to be a Cardinal.”
Heitkamp credited Kramer for not just the volleyball team’s success but for improvement in all sports at the school.
“She unbelievable,” Heitkamp said. “People need to realize how big of an impact she’s made. Not just us, but the rest of our school. Look at our football team; the baseball team is good too.
“They have good coaches too; I’m not taking away from them, but (Kramer) has believed in all of us since the second she stepped foot in the building. That carries through with us and carries through the rest of the building.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.