CLAYTON — New Bremen has lost only 12 sets this season, none of which have come in postseason play.
On Saturday, Fort Loramie became the latest squad to get shut out by the Cardinals in tournament play.
The Cardinals dominated from the start and earned a 25-13, 25-18, 25-21 victory in a Division IV regional final at Northmont High School’s Thunderdome to advance to a state semifinal for the fifth time in the last six years.
New Bremen coach Diana Kramer said each state trip has been a different journey. The uniqueness this season has come from the squad having to learn to play without two starters who were lost for the season due to injuries, including senior hitter Mia Schmitmeyer, who was an honorable mention all-Ohio selection last year.
But despite some players having to take on bigger roles, the Cardinals (26-1) have continued to excel.
“Today was just a fraction — less than a tenth of a percent — of what we did to get to this moment,” Kramer said while fighting back tears. “That’s why I’m so emotional. People don’t know how many hours they’ve put in. Some of these girls are playing club, playing other sports. It takes so much work.
“These girls, yesterday in practice, I showed them some clips of our season so far. We didn’t watch film on Fort Loramie; we watched film on us. Exciting moments this season, and in seasons past. These girls were managers (when they were younger). In my pregame speech, I talked about the little girls that used to watch this happen and dream about it, now they get to be part of it.”
Fort Loramie, which tied Russia for the Shelby County Athletic League title, finishes the season 21-7 overall.
“I’m real proud of our girls,” Fort Loramie coach John Rodgers said. “The distance we came as a team this year is off the charts. After having only a few returning starters and putting kids out on the floor that have never been in that environment before, to battling for the final four, I can’t complain.
“Bremen is just mentally tough as much as they’re physically tough. We’re physically as tough as they are, but Bremen is just over the top mentally tough.”
After Fort Loramie took an early 2-1 lead in the first set, the Cardinals scored nine straight points and pulled away from there to a 25-13 victory.
Fort Loramie scored six points in a row to tie it 13-13 in the second game and eventually took the lead, but New Bremen battled back. The Cardinals scored three straight to take a 17-16 lead, then pulled away to win 25-18.
New Bremen gradually pulled out to a 13-7 lead in the third game, then went on a 5-2 run to take an 18-9 lead and force Fort Loramie to burn its final timeout.
The Redskins pulled close late, but the gap was too much to overcome, and New Bremen won 25-21 to win the match.
The Cardinals’ crowd — which filled its designated sections at Northmont’s Thunderdome and spilled over to the running track above the sections — roared as the squad celebrated another state berth.
“We had the momentum from the second we showed up,” Kramer, who is in her seventh year, said. “We already had 350 fans in the stands (when we took the floor).
“… Ever since I started coaching in this town, the support we’ve received is unbelievable. Those parents go outside and play volleyball with their kids. The kids go on a run because they’re dreaming of going to state in cross country. They’re dribbling the basketball in their front yards because now they believe Cardinals can win. Now they expect to win.
“… The culture of New Bremen — not just the volleyball team, that’s what I want people to understand that — but it’s the entire community. You can see that. Most of those fans today were here today because of the name across the front of the shirt, ‘Cardinals.’ They didn’t have daughter or a granddaughter playing, they had their town playing, and that’s why they were here.”
New Bremen sophomore setter Melina Schrader led the squad with 26 assists and 10 kills and had eight digs and three aces. Olivia Heitkamp had eight kills, Megan Reinhart had eight kills, Rianna Paul had seven kills and Abi Powers had a team-high five aces and 10 digs.
Rodgers said he was proud of Fort Loramie for persevering, especially late in the match. But he said the team played too inconsistently.
“Honestly, if we could have played at the level we needed to play at, serving aggressively and doing the things that we needed to do, it would have been a balanced match,” Rodgers said. “We were answering (their points) when we were doing the things we needed to do. Just not consistently enough.
Fort Loramie will lose three seniors to graduation in middle hitter Katrina Berning, outside hitter Ella Hoelscher and Emma Canti, a foreign exchange student.
Berning is the only starter the squad will lose to graduation.
“They’ve been fantastic for this group,” Rodgers said. “(Katrina and Ella) are completely opposite roles. One is a starter out on the floor, the other is the biggest fan and the best teammate you can ever have.
“… I think the team is going to miss both of them for sure.”
Rodgers said he’s excited to have most of the squad back but said improvement will be needed next year.
“Unless we start doing some things, being able to play at a very high level when it counts the most, it doesn’t matter how many kids we have back,” Rodgers said.
New Bremen won the D-IV state title in 2017 and 2019 and finished as runner-up in 2018 and 2020. The squad’s four-year streak of state final appearances was broken last year in a district final loss to eventual state champion New Knoxville.
The Cardinals will face Convoy Crestview (21-7) in a state semifinal on Thursday at 2 p.m. at Wright State University’s Nutter Center. The Knights beat Tiffin Calvert 3-2 in a regional semifinal and Hicksville 3-0 in a final to advance. Calvert beat New Bremen in the 2018 and 2020 state finals.
New Bremen beat Crestview 25-18, 25-20, 25-16 in a nonconference match on Aug. 25.
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.