By Ken Barhorst
The most drama, pretty much the only drama, Saturday at the Nutter Center occurred in the media room following the Division 4 state championship volleyball match, when Jackson Center head coach Kim Metz began talking about her seven seniors, who were all seated in front of her.
As her eyes misted up and her voice cracked, the seven seniors couldn’t contain their emotions, and the tears flowed, some of them openly weeping for a few seconds.
Senior Cassie Meyer spoke first and said after the match when asked to compare this year with last year’s state title that this year was so much more emotional. And it was because of this team having those seven seniors.
“Last year, it was all about drive and wanting to succeed,” said Meyer. “This year, there was so much more emotion. With seven seniors, this was our last shot, and we weren’t just going to stop from last year. And when that final point was scored, so much rushed through our heads. Happy because our dream was achieved and also sad because we’re going to miss each other. We’re a big family and we love each other.”
Metz, who was not yet in the room when Meyer made those comments, echoed them nonetheless.
“Mixed emotions,” she began. “Satisfaction that these kids are putting their heart and sole into everything they do for this sport. Sadness, because I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of their lives for the last eight years, and they’re going to be gone. I’m not going to have them for my leaders. So if’s two sides of the coin. I couldn’t be happier for what they’ve done, who they are and what they’ve given me. But I’m losing my family, losing my kids.”
Jackson Center was the only one of three unbeaten teams to win a state championship, meaning the Lady Tigers finish the season as the only undefeated team in Ohio. The scores weren’t as lopsided as last season when they met the same New Philadelphia Tuscarawas Central Catholic team in the championship, but the outcome was never in doubt.
The scores were 25-18, 25-18, 25-13 and it gave the Lady Tigers a final 30-0 record and 59 wins in their last 60 matches. Tuscarawas finished the season 26-3.
“Going into this season, with the history we developed last year, we had girls who had different roles that they had to accept because we lost nine seniors,” said Metz. “And I couldn’t be more proud of them. We don’t talk about our record or our past. But these girls are 30-0 and we’ve never had a team that was 30-0. And they only lost four sets all year.”
The first game was tight for about half, the Lady Tigers leading just 13-12 after a kill by Catholic’s Alexis Gilland. But Jackson got the next three points on a Gilland attack error, one of Alicia Kessler’s three aces in the match, and another Gilland attack error to make it 16-12.
Jackson led 17-14 before reeling of five straight to go up 22-15, and Kamryn Elchert wrapped it up with a service ace.
The Lady Tigers busted out to a 6-1 lead in the second game on three straight kills by Meyer and two by Kessler.
A bad set and an attack error made it 6-3, but that was the closest the game would be the rest of the way. Two kills by Meyer and an ace from Camryn Hoehne put the lead at 10-4. From a 19-10 lead, however, Catholic scored six of the next seven points to tighten things up at 20-16. But a kill by Meyer and two straight attack errors by Catholic made it 23-16. A Meyer kill ended the match at 25-18.
Jackson fell behind 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 in the third game before taking control. The score stood at 10-7 when the Lady Tigers reeled off eight straight points to make it 18-7 and make it just a matter of time before the celebrating began. When Meyer’s spike landed just inside the line, it was over and the Lady Tigers all met near center court.
Meyer, who was one of four girls that grace the cover of the official tournament program, had another outstanding game, finishing with 17 kills, 20 digs and two aces. Alicia Kessler had eight kills, three aces and four total blocks and Hoehne had five kills, eight assists and 14 digs.
Elchert had 15 assists and 10 digs, and Vanessa Winner and Christen Ware added 13 and 11 digs, respectively.
Sydney and Alexis Gilland led Catholic with nine kills each, and Sydney added 12 assists and 11 digs. They are the daughers of Catholic coach Michele Gilland, who came away quite impressed with Jackson Center.
“They’re a good team,” she said. “We’re a small school, they’re a small school, but we don’t have quite the athletes they do. They don’t have a weak spot in their rotation. Shocking with that small a group to pick from that they don’t have that.
“I don’t think their offense as much beat us, it was their defense that was great,” she added. “It was hard to pick a spot on the floor. They’re all big and they take up a lot of room on the floor, so it’s hard to pick their court apart.”