His surgeon said it wasn’t likely but his physical therapist said there was a chance – that was enough for Alter High School libero Evan Hartman.
After tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament in the soccer postseason, surgery was the best option for the Knights senior. But it was late November and volleyball season was just a few months away. It would all come down to hard work, according to his physical therapist.
“At times, I thought I could get back and, other times I thought ‘no way,’” Hartman said. “But by the beginning of April, I was getting my strength back.”
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Hartman drilled in a single serve on Alter’s senior night in early May and was cleared the next week to play a match. The postseason was already underway and the Knights were battling for a fifth consecutive trip to the Division II Ohio High School Boys State Volleyball Tournament. And there was nowhere Hartman would rather be than on the court as Alter edged out Fenwick, 22-25, 13-25, 25-22, 25-21, 15-13, at the regional final, earning a state berth.
“It means everything to me, making it to state and doing it with my best friends,” Hartman said. “It means the world to me.”
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It also meant the world to the Knights to have their libero back.
“He has worked so hard to get back on the court – four and a half months,” Alter coach Craig Erford said. “He took over the starting job for the postseason and is a huge emotional leader for us.”
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He also joins a core group of nine seniors who don’t know a high school volleyball season that didn’t end up at the state tournament. This marks the ninth state trip for the Knights since 2008 and, potentially, a fifth consecutive D-II state title.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Erford said. “My goal, when I started in 2010 was just to make it to state and if someone would have told me that this would be where we are now, there is no way I would have believed them.”
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Among the other Knights seniors who have been on the team for the past three championship titles are senior outside hitter Andrew Rose and senior setter Josh Kabel. Rose is the 2018 Division II Ohio Player of the Year, as well as the GCL and West Region Player of the Year. Kabel landed on the 2018 First Team GCL and West Region teams and was named Second Team All-State.
Division I: The Knights aren't the only ones with an all-star on the roster as the Beavers boast two-time West Region Player of the Year Parker Mikesch. The Ohio State University signee was injured much of the season, accumulating 113 digs, 50 kills, 25 assists and 19 aces in just 11 matches.
“Parker got hurt during the third match of the season and the boys took it hard but they rallied back,” Beavercreek coach Carol Bysak said. “This is probably the closest knit group I’ve ever had.”
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The Beavers are also a brainy bunch as 13 of the 15 players are scholar athletes with an average team GPA of 4.1.
And with Mikesch back in the lineup along with several other tournament-tested players – as this marks the Beavers fourth consecutive state tournament – Beavercreek is ready to battle.
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It has also been “next man up” at Northmont as the Thunderbolts also lost a few starters this season. Northmont is back in at the D-I state tournament for the first time since 2014.
“We were really hitting our stride and playing well and we lost both of our outside hitters,” Northmont coach Jim Smith said. “But I think we’re coming along at the right time.”
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Blocking is big for the big Thunderbolts. Northmont has several players who top 6-foot-4 including middle hitters Abdihafid Abas and Devin Blankenship at 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-6, respectively.
Ohio High School Boys State Volleyball Tournament
Where: Capital University Capital Center, Columbus
When: Saturday – Division I (quarterfinals): 10 a.m. - St. Xavier vs. Hilliard Darby; 11:45 a.m. - Olentangy vs. Moeller; 1:30 p.m. - Northmont vs. St. Ignatius; 3:15 p.m. - Jackson vs. Beavercreek; Division II (semifinals): 5 p.m. – Alter vs. Hoban; 6:45 p.m. – LaSalle vs. St. Charles. Sunday – Division I semifinals - 10 a.m., noon; D-II championship – 2 p.m.; D-I championship – 4 p.m.
State Qualifiers at a Glance
State trips: 6th trip since 2011 (2001, ‘13, ‘15, ‘16, ’17. ‘18)
Best finish: state runner-up (2015)
Stat leaders: Simon Ricks (outside) – 191 kills; Riley Bell (middle blocker) – 129 kills, 48 blocks; Jarrod Brown (setter) – 367 assists, 31 aces; Naumaan Hussain (libero) – 312 assists, 102 digs; Parker Mikesch (outside) – 113 digs
State trips: fourth trip to state (2012, ‘13, ‘14, ‘18)
Best finish: Quarterfinalist
Stat leaders: Ryan Foy (setter) - 801 assists, 81 blocks, 57 aces; Dawson Walker (right side) – 348 kills, 57 blocks, 29 aces; Devin Blankenship (middle) – 221 kills, 127 blocks; Abdihafid Abas (middle) – 191 kills, 85 blocks.
State trips: 9th trip since 2008 (2008, ‘10, ‘11, ‘12, ‘14, ‘15, ‘16, ‘17, ‘18)
Best finish: State champions (2011, ‘12, ‘14, ‘15, ‘16, ‘17)
Stat leaders: Andrew Rose (outside) - 270 kills, 85 aces, 205 digs; Josh Kabel (setter) - 674 assists, 134 digs; Dan Nye (outside) - 219 kills, 188 digs
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