CLAYTON — Fort Loramie dominated Russia to earn a spot in a Division IV regional final on Saturday. The Redskins will now take the St. Henry challenge for the third time — and hope for better results.
Fort Loramie beat the Raiders 25-19, 25-13, 25-21 to advance to Saturday’s regional final against St. Henry.
St. Henry beat Fort Loramie 25-20, 25-23 in the Coldwater Spikeoff on Aug. 21 and 25-21, 25-18, 25-22 in the squads’ regular-season finale on Oct. 16 in Fort Loramie.
“I think it’s going to be a war,” Fort Loramie coach John Rodgers said. “… We’re coming into a consistent mode right now. That’s important this time of the year, to start getting consistent with what we’re doing and not getting rattled with what we’re doing down the stretch. I thought we did a good job of that tonight.”
St. Henry (20-6) beat Jackson Center 21-25, 25-21, 25-15, 25-21 in Thursday’s first regional semifinal to advance.
Fort Loramie (21-6) and Russia played even early in the first match. But the Redskins scored 10 of the last 14 points to take momentum.
Fort Loramie kept the momentum up by taking an 11-2 lead in the second game and cruised to a 12-point win. Russia built a 7-1 lead in the third game, but the Redskins battled back and took an 11-10 lead. They gradually pulled away from there.
It was a reversal from the last time the teams played. Russia won a Shelby County Athletic League match 25-23, 20-25, 25-17, 25-21 on Sept. 21 at Clair C. Naveau Gymnasium. The Redskins won the teams’ first league match 25-18, 16-25, 25-20, 25-9 on Aug. 26.
“We played well,” Rodgers said. “… We’ve been working extremely hard. We had a couple extra days in practice this week to really hone in on some things we needed reps on. Serving, serve receive, we needed more reps. I think that made the difference tonight.”
Russia finishes 16-11 overall. The Raiders, which advanced to regional finals each of the last two seasons, won a district final and earned a regional berth for the fifth consecutive year.
“Big picture, I’m really proud of the girls,” Russia coach Aaron Watkins said. “It’s a testament to where our program’s at and how much work the girls have put in to get here.”
Russia struggled to a 3-7 start but won 13 of its last 17 matches. The Raiders will lose three seniors to graduation.
“I really think we’re going to have a good core back next year that’s going to use this as some momentum, a little chip on their shoulder, as we go through the year.”
St. Henry 3, Jackson Center 1
The Tigers couldn’t keep up a hot start and lost 21-25, 25-21, 25-15, 25-12 in Thursday’s first semifinal.
Jackson Center built an early lead and hung on to win the first set. But the Redskins took an 8-1 lead in the second game, pushed it to 12-4 and fought off a late rally try by Jackson Center to win by four points.
St. Henry dominated the third set and built a 16-12 lead in the fourth before scoring the last eight points to secure the victory.
“I think we played incredibly,” Jackson Center coach Kim Metz said. “We allowed some errors and allowed our mental game to back off from the direction we wanted to play. …I knew that St. Henry was coming back after that first set. They’re an amazing team with amazing hitters. …We just fell short.”
The Tigers, which won their first district title since 2018, finish 21-6 overall. They’ll lose eight seniors to graduation.
“I’m thrilled to death,” Metz said of the season. “For us to get back to the district championship and bring that back and get to this match, I can’t speak enough about the girls and the work that they’ve done inside and outside. They came to practice every day ready to play. They’re great kids. …It’s going to be hard to fill the shoes of those eight seniors, but I think I’ve got some kids ready to keep the train running.”
Sidney Daily News photographer Luke Gronneberg contributed to this report. Gronneberg can be reached at email@example.com.