CLAYTON — Fort Loramie was hoping for a different result when taking the St. Henry challenge for a third time. But just like two regular season matchups, St. Henry won in consecutive sets.
St. Henry pulled out 26-24, 25-22 wins in the first two sets and finished off Fort Loramie with a 25-17 win in the third to capture a regional title and earn a state berth.
It’s the third time Fort Loramie has lost to St. Henry this season. The squad lost 25-20, 25-23 in the Coldwater Spikeoff on Aug. 21 and lost 25-21, 25-18, 25-22 on Oct. 16 in Fort Loramie.
“I think the thing that makes them so strong is their ability to bounce back from mistakes they make and shrug them off and keep moving forward,” Fort Loramie coach John Rodgers said. “They don’t dwell on the play that just happened. They just shrug it off and move to the next play.
“… They were able to string together a few plays here or there in the first two sets that made the difference.”
Fort Loramie finishes 21-7 overall. The squad, which won its third consecutive Shelby County Athletic League title, will lose eight seniors to graduation. The program won its 14th consecutive district title this season.
Among the seniors Fort Loramie will lose is senior outside hitter Ava Sholtis, who was recently named SCAL player of the year. The squad will also lose Riley Heitkamp, Jada Drees, Lauren Bergman, Brooke Holthaus, Colleen Brandewie, Quinn Sholtis and Dani Barhorst.
“They’re just fantastic,” Rodgers said. “Their leadership has been fantastic. Whether they’re a starter or they rarely get on the floor, they’ve all provided tremendous leadership. Things that you don’t see, things that are behind the scenes. Someone has a bad day at school, they’re there with their arm around them, talking to them.”
The squad exchanged points in both the first two games.
Fort Loramie took its largest lead in the first set at 15-12 after Sholtis and Skyler Albers teamed on a block. But St. Henry scored six of the next eight points to take an 18-17 lead. Fort Loramie fought to tie it 23-23, but St. Henry scored the next point on a kill by Avery Schmitz, and later sealed the match when a Fort Loramie spike went out of bounds.
The teams traded points to a 20-20 tie in the second game, but St. Henry scored two points to take a 22-20 lead. After a serving error cut the gap to one, Carley Winner came up with consecutive kills to push the lead to 24-21 and seal the win.
“We had a lot of opportunities to execute, and we just didn’t,” Rodgers said. “We missed by a little bit here, a little bit there. We hit a ball just a little bit out, touch a ball that’s going on. At the time, you don’t realize that’s going to be a big play. But when you get above 20, all of a sudden that turns out that was the difference in the set.”
St. Henry built a 10-9 lead in the first game, then scored six of the next eight to pull away.
“In a tight match like that, you can’t give up any type of run,” Rodgers said. “Four is a huge run in a match like this. Four can be the difference in a match like this. It was.
“I’m so proud of my team. They battled, they battled, they battled. They never quit. They made them earn their points. I couldn’t be more proud of my seniors.”
St. Henry advances to face Monroeville in a state semifinal at 4 p.m. on Thursday at Wright State University’s Nutter Center. Midwest Athletic Conference rival New Knoxville will face South Webster at 6. If both advance, the MAC rivals will face off in the D-IV state final at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Sholtis led Fort Loramie with 10 kills on Saturday while Drees had seven. Brandewie and Jenna Barhorst each had 12 assists. Heitkamp had 14 digs, Sholtis had 12 and Holthaus had nine.
New Knoxville 3, Tiffin Calvert 1
The Rangers built defending D-IV state champion Calvert 26-28, 25-23, 25-23, 25-22 in a D-IV regional final on Saturday in Elida to advance.
Carsyn Henschen led New Knoxville (25-2) with 30 kills while Avery Henschen had 21. Carsyn Henschen had seven total blocks. Ellie Gabel had 51 assists. Gabel had 29 digs, Haley Fledderjohann had 23, Avery Henschen had 22, Carsyn Henschen had 19 and Melisa Waterman had 18.
Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy 3, Versailles 0
The Tigers lost 25-15, 25-20, 25-23 in a Div. III regional final on Saturday in Kettering.
Kirsten Bomholt led Versailles with 13 kills and had 13 digs. Brynn Biscoe had 23 assists and 11 digs.
Versailles finishes 14-14 overall.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.