Volleyball: Jackson Center to try to surprise top-ranked New Bremen Wednesday

SCORES, Hits 105.5 to carry Tigers/Cardinals and Fort Loramie/Russia

By Jack Kramer - For the Sidney Daily News

Two highly regarded volleyball programs, each with a couple recent state championship banners on display in their gymnasiums, return to the floor for another in a long series of head-to-head battles on Wednesday night at 6 p.m. in a Division IV regional semifinal match.

New Bremen (24-1) from the Midwest Athletic Conference and Jackson Center (19-7) from the Shelby County Athletic League will lock horns at Northmont High School for the 11th time since the 2016-17 school year. Wednesday marks the fourth meeting for the two programs in regional tourney action.

The Tigers dropped a 3-1 match to New Bremen back on Sept. 3 at Jackson Center.

The Cardinals, by the way, have logged eight consecutive victories over Jackson Center after the Tigers swept a pair of matches in 2016 when they earned a second state title in a row. New Bremen garnered a state crown in 2017 and defeated Fort Loramie in four sets two years later to earn another championship.

Kim Metz is in her 35th season guiding the Tigers. After a short stint at St. Henry, Diana Kramer is in year number seven leading the Cardinals.

In the sixth and final Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association poll for the 2022 volleyball campaign, New Bremen was ranked first in D-IV in Ohio. Marion Local, also from the MAC, was rated second.

Jackson Center finished 15th in the last OHSVCA poll. Russia and Fort Loramie, also from the SCAL, ended the season fifth and seventh, respectively. The Raiders and Redskins will play in the second semifinal match on Wednesday, with a start time scheduled for 7:30.

The Tigers powered past Fayetteville-Perry on Saturday, 3-0, to win a district crown. Early in the 2,000’s through their state title years, Jackson Center streaked to a dozen district championships.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals, whose only setback was at the hands of Marion Local early in the season, whipped their rivals in straight sets in a district title match last week before nearly 3,000 fans at Wapakoneta High School.

ScoresBroadcast.com and Hits 105.5 FM will carry the regional tournament on Wednesday starting at 5:30. Comments from coaches can be heard in the pregame segments.

Both New Bremen and Jackson Center feature young squads. Only five seniors are among the active players on the two rosters.

Five New Bremen starters in 2021 have excelled again this season. Junior Olivia Heitkamp is over six feet tall and has amassed more than 400 kills. Senior libero Abby Powers, a first-team all-Ohio selection last year, is pushing 370 digs this season. Sophomore Melina Schrader is a fine setter and has recorded better than 840 assists.

Senior outside hitter Rianna Paul and junior defensive specialist Amelia Dammeyer are also solid contributors. Additional key performers are senior Megan Reinhart, junior Alivia Dammeyer, sophomore Keira Steininger, and freshmen Mary Rindler and April Baker.

This loaded New Bremen unit would be even stronger had it not lost senior Mia Schmitmeyer for the 2022 season because of a knee injury. Last year she was awarded first team MAC and first team all-district honors. Sophomore Lydia Bushman figured to be a key component, too, but also fell to the injury bug.

Jackson Center featured two returning letter-winners this year — 5-10 sophomore McKinley Reichert and 5-11 junior Macy Klopfenstein. Reichert has exploded for more than 350 spikes on the season; Klopfenstein, another 225.

Reichert has hammered home nearly 40 aces; juniors Keona Suttles and Paige Geuy have combined for 60 more.

Tigers sophomore Maryn Ludwig is the leading ball handler with 400-plus assists. Reichert has recorded in excess of 300 digs. Junior libero Grace Prenger follows Reichert closely.

The SCAL squad loses only two 2023 spring graduates from this fall’s outstanding club — hitters Nevaeh Ledcke and Sarah Swiger, both 5-10. Junior Riley Barhorst and sophomores Avery Jackson, De Lichtenberg and Presley Reese have also provided very important court time.

Jackson Center wound up third in the SCAL behind Russia and Fort Loramie, which both swept the Tigers. The other JC losses were to MAC powerhouses Versailles, Marion Local and New Bremen. The young Tigers dropped four of their initial seven matches and closed the campaign on a 16-3 run.

By the way, the end-of-season OHSVCA top ten also featured a trio of D-III MAC schools. Versailles was third; Coldwater, fourth; and St. Henry, sixth.

Coldwater rose past St. Henry last week for a D-III northwest district title and thus advanced to a NW region semi-final on Thursday at 7:30 PM. The Cavaliers tangle with Sherwood Fairview at Lake High School.

Versailles ousted East Clinton in a D-III southwest district title tilt. In a region semi, the Tigers take on Cardington-Lincoln at Kettering Fairmont on Thursday at 6.

The Jackson Center-New Bremen winner in D-IV squares off with Russia or Fort Loramie at Northmont on Saturday at 2. The Raiders and Redskins split regular-season contests.

At stake on Saturday is a berth in the state tournament at Wright State. To earn the D-IV championship, this region’s representative would need to win state semifinal and state final matches on Nov. 10 at 12 noon and on Nov. 12 at 11 a.m.

In 15 of the last 18 years, the D-IV state champ in volleyball has come from the southwest region.

SCORES, Hits 105.5 to carry Tigers/Cardinals and Fort Loramie/Russia

By Jack Kramer

For the Sidney Daily News