New Bremen captures third state volleyball title in last five years

FAIRBORN -- With a combined 10 state appearances in the past seven years, it was bound to be a battle when New Bremen and Monroeville took the court with a championship title on the line.

But the Cardinals mantra of “Why not us, why not now” – established during the preseason – rang true as New Bremen captured its third state volleyball title in the past five years. New Bremen swept Monroeville, 25-17, 25-23, 25-21, in the OHSAA Division IV state championship match at the Nutter Center Saturday.

The sea of crimson and gold was on its feet as the Cardinals added to the Midwest Athletic Conference dominance by winning the 22nd state volleyball title for the storied conference. MAC teams have now claimed a combined 147 state titles in all sports. While the players sported the gold medals and claimed the hefty trophy, it was a shared victory.

“It’s not just us, New Bremen won a championship today,” Cardinals coach Diana Kramer said. “It’s a great time to be a Cardinal.”

A state title rarely comes easy, and Saturday was no exception. It was tight early on – with five lead changes and six tie scores in the opening minutes – until the Cardinals took a timeout trailing 8-10. A 4-1 New Bremen run, capped by an ace by Olivia Heitkamp, gave the Cardinals a 12-11 lead. Aggressive serving kept the Eagles on their heels and a pair of aces by Cardinals freshman outside hitter April Baker boosted New Bremen to an 18-13 lead – one the Eagles could not overcome.

Monroeville – in the hunt for a first state volleyball title – wasn’t about to back down. Knotted at 21, the New Bremen block came up big with back-to-back points to give the Cardinals the lead. A kill by senior outside hitter Rianna Paul secured the tight second set for the Cardinals, 25-23.

New Bremen built a 15-9 lead early in the third set only to see the Eagles chip away at it and pull to within two, 13-15, before Kramer called for a timeout. The Cardinals responded with a 4-0 run.

Five different players posted the final five points for New Bremen in what was a total team win for the Cardinals. Heitkamp had a match-high 19 kills while Baker led the New Bremen serving attack with four of the Cardinals 11 aces.

“It’s just amazing and very humbling,” Kramer said.

And while there were tears on the Eagles bench, there was also enormous respect for the state champions.

“Diana has built that program into a tremendous powerhouse,” Monroeville coach Kendra Snook said. “We made them earn every point and we played our best ball. They’re just a better team.”

* Division III: The top-ranked D-III team in the state was true to its billing as Lake Catholic won its second state volleyball championship Saturday and first in more than a decade.

The Cougars topped Coldwater, 25-12, 25-13, 25-20, to win their first title since 2010 despite making state appearances five times since 2016.

The Lake Catholic offense was firing on all cylinders from the opening serve, tallying 16 kills and three aces in the opening set, controlling the tempo and the scoreboard. The second set was more of the same as Coldwater coach Nikki Etzler was out of timeouts trailing 17-6 and Lake Catholic continued to find the gaps.

Despite dropping the first two sets, the Cavaliers did not give up the fight.

“We work for each other and play for each other every single day,” Coldwater senior Jenna Leugers said.

In a must-win third set, the Cavaliers doubled up on the Cougars, 8-4, early with an ace by Leugers. But Lake Catholic – determined to wrap it up in three sets – battled back. The Cougars translated a late 17-17 tie into a 21-17 advantage and never gave up the lead.

“Lake Catholic is a great team, but I love the fight of our team,” Etzler said. “They continued to grit it out and play for each other.”

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