FAIRBORN — New Knoxville knows something about overcoming adversity and the Rangers showed that once again against St. Henry by beating the Redskins in four sets, 23-25, 25-17, 25-22 and 25-19, to capture the Division IV state championship on Saturday at Wright State University’s Nutter Center.
It marks New Knoxville’s first state volleyball title as the Rangers finished with an impressive 26-2 overall record. Prior to this the Rangers had made the state final four two times and were state runner-ups in 2006.
“As far as the game it was a dogfight and we knew it was going to be,” New Knoxville coach Meg Lageman said. “it was back and forth which is the game of volleyball. I am really proud of the girls. I thought they worked really hard and played every point like it was their last together and that is what we talked about and I thought they went out there and they earned it.”
St. Henry finishes its year with a 21-7 record and this was the Redskins’ 15th trip to the state final four.
Winning the first set in volleyball can give a team momentum and so when St. Henry captured a hard fought first set in the battle of Midwest Athletic Conference members, it appeared the Redskins were poised for an eighth state title.
But the Rangers showed their resiliency and it was them who seemed to get fired up after the first match defeat and reeled off by winning the next three to secure the state title.
Lageman said it was about refocusing and regrouping and tightening up the team’s service receive and passing game. The Redskins had eight aces in the first set.
“In the first set we came out and were really aggressive with our serve and we missed only one serve and had seven or eight aces,” Redskin head coach Tricia Rosenbeck. “But then they flipped the script on us in the second game and they came out serving a little bit more aggressively and that got us out of our system but you know our girls stayed aggressive until the end.”
But in the second and third set, the Rangers became the aggressor as they opened up leads of six and seven points that the Redskins could not overcome.
In the deciding fourth set, St. Henry jumped out to a quick lead but the Rangers broke away at the end to open up a 19-13 advantage before holding off a late Redskin rally to take home the win and the gold trophy.
“I think we started passing the ball well,” Lageman said. “I think in the first game we were a little off in our serve receive and I think once we started passing the ball better we were able to stay in our system and that is why we were able to go on these runs.”
Lageman added that despite faltering in the first set, the team remain calmed and knew it needed to get back to what got the Rangers this far.
New Knoxville’s Carsyn Henschen spearheaded the Ranger attack, finishing with 19 kills. She only seemed to get stronger as the match went along after being limited to 3 kills in the first set.
Henschen admitted the team was a little nervous coming out of the gate but once the Rangers got into their groove they took control of the play.
“In the second set we knew we had to do it now or it would be hard to come back so we just put our nerves away in the second set and just played our game,” Henschen said. “We all build off each other’s energy.”
Defensively, the Rangers seemed to tighten their game as well. St. Henry’s Brianna Siefring had seven kills in the first set but finished with 17 for the day. Grace Lange led the team in kills with 18.
During the regular season, New Knoxville beat St. Henry in four sets and in the postseason, the Rangers had five matches where it went four sets, including a district final win over MAC rival New Bremen, which was the D-IV runner-up last year, and a regional final win over Tiffin Calvert, which won the D-IV title last year.