Versailles against Tuscarawas Valley in a Division III state volleyball semifinal on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, at the Nutter Center in Fairborn. David Jablonski/Staff

Defending state champs Versailles, New Bremen back in title matches

“We’ve been told ‘you can’t do this’ and ‘you’re not good enough,’ all season,” Cardinals coach Diana Kramer said. “My message, this entire season, has been ‘nobody believes in you, believe in yourself.’”

Despite being the defending Division IV state champions, the Cardinals have had their fair share of doubters after 2017 MAC Player of the Year and current University of Michigan outside hitter Paige Jones graduated. But the Cardinals aren’t the only believers after New Bremen battled to a 19-25, 23-25, 25-19, 25-20, 15-10 win over Monroeville in the 44th Annual Girls State Volleyball Tournament semifinals at Wright State University Nutter Center on Thursday.

It didn’t look promising early for the defending champs as Monroeville jumped out to a 10-1 lead in the opening set. Kramer burned her second timeout before her team lit up the scoreboard a second time. The Eagles took the first set. The Cardinals kept it close in the second set – even taking a short-lived lead – but soon found themselves down two sets in the best-of-five semifinal match.

While the deficit might have rattled other teams, it didn’t faze the Cardinals who had to battle back from two sets down to beat St. Henry in the district final.

“We battled through and we remained New Bremen volleyball players,” Kramer said. “I couldn’t be prouder.”

Knotted at 8-8 in a must-win third set, the Cardinals took control, rattling off five straight points to go ahead for good. The Eagles would never muster another lead as the Cardinals prevailed.

“They were serving very aggressively which got us out of our system,” Monroeville coach Kendra Snook said. “Tonight, they were the better team.”

The Cardinals were led offensively by junior outside hitter Taylor Paul and senior middle hitter Rachel Kremer who tallied 14 and 12 kills, respectively. New Bremen servers posted nine aces in the match, along with 10 service errors.

“That’s my style, we’re high risk, high rewards,” Kramer said.

The defending D-IV state champions with face Tiffin Calvert, 25-3, at 11 a.m. Saturday in the title match. The Senecas dispensed with the Clay Panthers in straight sets, 25-10, 25-13, 25-16 in the semifinals Thursday.

The Trojans kept it close – with 17 tie scores and 11 lead changes in the next two sets – but the defending state champions prevailed, 25-6, 25-21, 25-18, giving Versailles a chance to repeat. Right-side hitter Liz Ording and middle blocker Lindsey Winner shared the offensive spotlight with 12 kills apiece in the winning effort.

“It’s awesome, it’s so much fun,” Versailles coach Kenzie Bruggeman said.

It wasn’t quite as fun a few weeks ago when the Tigers were 10-10, in the midst of a three-game losing streak, and struggling to put all the pieces together. After graduating seven seniors from last year’s state championship team, there were some gaps to fill.

“I just kept telling them it’s not about the wins and losses,” Bruggeman said. “It was about trusting and knowing that we’re not done yet.”

Nine wins later, the 19-10 Tigers are one win from their third state volleyball title since 2013. The Tigers will take on Independence, 25-3, in the D-III final at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Blue Devils – making their second consecutive state appearance – made quick work of Tinora, 25-15, 25-22, 25-18, Thursday.