By Ken Barhorst
It’s been a hectic week for Jackson Center volleyball coach Kim Metz. But she wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Metz will take her Lady Tigers to the Division 4 State Volleyball Tournament at The Nutter Center for the second year in a row, and they will be trying to duplicate last year’s effort, which resulted in the first state championship in Metz’s lengthy career at the school. If that happens, it will be the third year in a row that the D-4 state champion has been a Shelby County League team (Fort Loramie in 2014).
Jackson goes into the match Friday at noon against 25-3 Dalton with a perfect 28-0 record and the season-long No. 1 ranking in the coaches’ poll.
It will mark the fourth time Metz has taken a team to the state tournament. In addition to last season, Jackson Center lost in the finals in 2008 to nearby Marion Local, and lost in the semifinals in 2007.
This year, they have only been tested once, early in the year in a five-set match against New Bremen in which the Lady Tigers fell behind 2-0 before coming back to win. They played that same New Bremen team in the regional championship Saturday, and it was expected to be an all-out battle. But the Lady Tigers played flawlessly and took the championship in three straight games.
A win Friday would put the Lady Tigers in the championship game on Saturday at 3 p.m. against either McComb or New Philadelphia Tuscarawas Central Catholic.
Last year at the state tournament, Jackson had its hands full in the semifinals, beating Monroeville in five sets, with the last one ending up 16-14. But the next day, they made quick work of Tuscarawas Central Catholic in the championship match, winning 25-14, 25-15, 25-9.
Jackson’s semifinal opponent, Dalton, was ranked 14th in the final coaches’ poll. McComb was ranked No. 3 and Tuscarawas CC No. 8.
McComb was in the state tournament in 2013 and 2014. That was the team that lost to Fort Loramie in the state championship game in 2014.
“We will definitely have to focus in on doing the same things we’ve been doing the entire season, and that means taking care of our side of the court and staying focused,” said Metz. “Dalton doesn’t have as much of a back-row attack like some of the teams around here, especially New Bremen. They don’t seem to have that element. But they are a nice blocking team with Granger in the front row.”
Granger is 6-foot-3 middle hitter Emma Granger, who has 60 blocks this season, 38 of them solo. And she also leads the team in kills with 463.
“Granger is a nice player who is very active in the front row,” said Metz. “And they have a couple other players that go well with her. They are an athletic team, but I hope once again our level of maturity and game experience will assist us. The western side of Ohio seems to be pretty notorious for bringing some pretty good volleyball, but there is talent all over the state.”
The Lady Tigers will start six seniors and this will mark the final weekend of the high school careers for Kamryn Elchert, Christen Ware, Miranda Hickey, Camryn Hoehne, Vanessa Winner and Cassie Meyer.
“It’s been such a blessing to have a group of kids that buy into something you’re trying to sell,” said Metz of her senior players. “You try to get them to dream such enormous dreams, and you want to continue to push forward. It will be exciting to see what kind of adults they’re going to turn into. They’ve done a phenomenal job of being great leaders.”