CLAYTON — Fort Loramie and New Bremen will play in a Division IV regional final on Saturday at Northmont’s Thunderdome in a match between a group of rookies and a group of veterans.
New Bremen lost in a regional final to Jackson Center last year and has been on a quest to earn a state berth since. The Cardinals took another step toward that goal with a 25-17, 25-14 and 25-19 win over Jackson Center in a regional semifinal on Thursday.
New Bremen coach Diana Kremer said the win over the two-time defending state champion Tigers meant a lot for the team.
“People talk about ‘Oh, we’ve got to go out and get revenge,’ but that’s not what it’s about,” Kremer said. “It’s about winning this year. Last year, they deserved to win, and this year I feel we deserved to win.”
It’s the kind of performances New Bremen, the top-ranked Div. IV team by the state coaches association, has had through the postseason. The only set the Cardinals have lost in postseason was a four-point loss to No. 2 ranked St. Henry in a district final.
“That’s our motto this year,” Kremer said. “The only team that can beat us is ourselves. We need to stay aggressive on every single point. When Paige (Jones) gets swinging, nobody can stop her. …When we’re playing on all cylinders, we’re really, really tough to beat.”
Jones, who is verbally committed to Michigan, has been a load for opponents to handle for years. Jackson Center tried to neutralize her as best it could on Thursday, but she finished with 28 kills and 11 digs.
It’ll be up to Fort Loramie (17-10) to try and neutralize Jones on Saturday. The Redskins lost all but five varsity players from last season’s team, which advanced to a regional semifinal and lost to New Bremen 3-0.
Loramie finished tied for second in the Shelby County Athletic League in regular season with a 9-3 record but struggled in nonconference play and finished 12-10 overall. The Redskins rolled over their first four tournament opponents and didn’t lose a set until Thursday’s 3-1 win over Russia in a regional semifinal.
Fort Loramie beat Russia 25-17 and 25-20 in the first two sets on Thursday and took a 9-7 lead in the third set. But the Raiders battled out to a six-point lead late in the set and held on to win 26-24 after Loramie made a late run.
“It’s a young group of kids that’s never been in this position before,” Loramie coach Jeremy Rodgers said. “The hardest thing is calming down and making plays in the moment. …Effort has never been a problem with this team. It’s just playing in the moment. That’s tough when you’re 14, 15 years old. They did a good job of it as the match went on.”
New Bremen, which returned the bulk of its players from last year’s regional runner-up squad, beat Fort Loramie 3-1 in a nonconference match in regular season. Loramie won the second set 25-23, but the Cardinals won the other three sets by at least six points.
“All records can be thrown out now in my opinion,” Kremer said. “There’s one more game until girls’ dreams come true. I think that we’re very confident moving forward, but so is Fort Loramie.”
Rodgers, a New Bremen resident, said Loramie will need to be play more consistently on Saturday to be able to win.
“When we can play at that high level, we’re tough, we’re right there,” Rodgers said. “But we’ve got to be able to do that over the long haul. I think we’ll be better on Saturday because we’ve been here now, we know what the gym looks like and the court looks like. Now we can just focus on calming down and playing good volleyball.”
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter.