CLAYTON — Jackson Center’s remarkable run came to an end in a 3-0 loss to New Bremen on Thursday in a Division IV regional semifinal at Northmont’s Thunderdome.
And while Jackson Center coach Kim Metz said the team is sad it won’t win a third consecutive state title, they’re extremely proud of winning a district title and earning a regional berth for the 11th consecutive season… especially after they heard talk last summer that they lost too many players from last year’s team to be as good.
“These kids have fought through all the emotions from everybody wanting to kick them,” Metz said. “But it’s not the same team. For these kids to battle back and be where they are tonight, it tells an awful lot about who they are and what their character is.”
The Tigers started 1-4, including three-set losses to New Bremen and eventual Shelby County Athletic League champion Anna. But Jackson Center rebounded won its next six games, including a five-set win over Fort Loramie, which will face New Bremen in a regional final on Saturday.
“We were a little banged up at the beginning of the season, but we had a wonderful summer where these kids were challenging each other,” Metz said. “But it doesn’t matter. You come up with Fort Loramie, you come up with Russia, you come up with Anna… those are the breaks. You can’t say, ‘Wait a second, we need to get healthy.’ But there were other opportunities were kids were able to step up.”
Raquel Kessler led Jackson Center with 13 kills and seven digs on Thursday, while Caroline Frieders had five kills, 12 assists and 15 digs. Katie Sosby had 16 digs, Connor Pipke had 12 and Madilynn Platfoot had nine.
All but Platfoot will return next season for Jackson Center, which finished with an 18-9 overall record.
“Graduation is always painful, but I am excited about (the players) coming back” Metz said. “But I think those little things they experienced, getting knocked down, forces you to look at what’s going on and makes you think about what you need to do be that better player. It individualizes and puts that little stamp on what you want to become to make your team better.
“I think this is going to sting, and they’re going to remember what happened. A lot of their older sisters were successful (the last two years), and they want to pick that ball up and get it rolling once again.”
Watkins happy with Russia’s performance
Russia coach Aaron Watkins said after a loss to Fort Loramie on Thursday that he was pleased with the team’s performance this season. The Raiders finished 19-8 and won a district title for the first time in over a decade.
Russia will lose four seniors, including libero Whitney Pleiman and setter Jenna Cordonnier. Pleiman set a school record for career digs with 1,601, and Cordonnier set a school record for assists in a season with 714.
The Raiders will return the bulk of their team next year, including first team all-SCAL middle hitter Laurissa Poling.
“They’re a great group of girls,” Watkins said. “I’m going to miss those four seniors. They all get along really well on and off the court, and that really contributed to a lot of it. We’ve got nine girls coming back next year that want to get past this round. I told them they’ve got to be like these seniors and push for it.”
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter.