Jackson Center realizes volleyball dream

They have been close before — finishing as state runner-up in 2008 — but coach Kim Metz knew “it was their year.”

The veteran coach, in her 28th season, was right as Jackson Center claimed its first state volleyball title with a dominating straight-set win, 25-14, 25-15, 25-9, over Tuscarawas Central Catholic in the Division IV final Saturday at Wright State’s Nutter Center.

“Amazing, a dream come true,” Metz said. “These kids are extremely self-motivated, that’s the difference that brought us the success this year.”

The Tigers took control early in the first set, translating a 3-5 deficit into a 10-5 lead. They never trailed again in the match.

Junior outside hitter Cassie Meyer paced the Tigers with 21 kills, as many as the Tuscarawas Central Catholic team.

“That seems unbelievable,” a teary-eyed Meyer said. “That obviously couldn’t have happened without my passers and setters.”

Meyer’s performance also earned the Jackson Center junior a place in the state record books as she tallied the most kills of any D-IV player in a three-set state match, topping the previous record of 18.

Jackson Center also now has the distinction of boasting a state tournament-record hitting percentage of .398 among D-IV teams in a three-set match.

“We came out to play,” middle hitter Alicia Kessler said.

While the win was a welcome one, Metz immediately brought the tight-knight players to tears when she mentioned the four words they have said all season: “See you at practice.”

Even with the trophy sitting in front of them, the players agreed it didn’t seem real.

“I still feel like we have another match to play,” Kessler said.

Division III: It was a strong start but a disappointing finish for the St. Henry Redskins.

Gilmour Academy, a five-time state runner-up since 2008, finally came away with the championship after a 13-25, 25-20, 25-22, 15-25, 15-7 win over St. Henry.

Gilmour coach Danny Coughlin’s pregame strategy session was simple.

“We play our game and they have to stop us,” Coughlin said.

The Redskins did just that early on, controlling the first set from start to finish. But the tables were turned in the second set as Gilmour set the tone with a 7-1 run to start the set and the Lancers never trailed.

“It was a game of runs today,” St. Henry coach Diana Kramer said. “In the first set, we had all the momentum and in the second set, they did. It was two great teams battling it out.”

In a must-win fourth set, the balanced St. Henry offense thrived and the defense took advantage of Gilmour miscues to close on a 10-1 run. The sea of red and white that packed the Nutter Center stands was on its feet for their Redskins.

“Their support is huge, volleyball means everything to our town,” Kramer said.

But in their third consecutive state championship, the Lancers needed little incentive to close it out.

“I didn’t have to tell them much, they knew what was on the line,” Coughlin said. “They just came out firing.”

Gilmour jumped out to a 4-0 lead and never trailed in the final set as the Lancers handed the Redskins (28-1) their first loss.

“It’s not the outcome that we wanted, but I could not be prouder of these girls and the town could not be prouder,” Kramer said.

Division II: Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin made it two in a row, topping Jonathan Alder in the title match, 14-25, 28-18, 25-17, 25-16. It is the second state title in as many tries for the Lions.

Division I: Mount Notre Dame collected its ninth state title and third in a row with a straight-set win, 25-23, 25-23, 25-20, over Dublin Coffman. Mount Notre Dame became the first team to win nine state volleyball titles.

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