The Midwest Athletic Conference has 17 volleyball state championship game appearances and nine titles to its credit. The holder of most recent state title is St. Henry, but that might be changing. The Skins saw a 13-year run as MAC champions stopped last year when Versailles took the crown. Now the Skins are the hunters instead of the hunted with Versailles and Marion Local sitting as the preseason favorites.
Midwest Athletic Conference volleyball is like all the other sports in this small school conference – really, really good.
The MAC has 17 state championship game appearances and nine titles to its credit.
The holder of most recent state title is St. Henry, but that might be changing. The Skins saw a 13-year run as MAC champions stopped last year when Versailles took the crown. Now the Skins are the hunters instead of the hunted with Versailles and Marion Local sitting as the preseason favorites.
Last year Versailles cut through the conference and regular season undefeated and suffered its only loss to Anna in the Regional Finals. Fresh off that 27-1 run, the Tigers are preparing for the upcoming season by trying to replace a talented senior class. Coach Jeremy Riley’s pain is eased by the return of D-III All-Ohio hitter/setter Justine Raterman (6-2).
Raterman has been playing varsity volleyball since her freshman year and the only thing preventing her from playing D-I college volleyball is the fact she is committed to basketball.
“Justine will be playing middle hitter, outside hitter and setter,” Riley said. “We are asking her to do the same things she has been doing for three years.”
Last season Raterman recorded over 250 kills and 270 assists and had 94 blocks. There are few weaknesses in her game, making one of the state’s best all around players.
Unlike last season, Raterman will not be the only six-footer on the team. Juniors Shelby Bey, Christine Borchers and sophomore Megan Campbell all stand six foot or higher, giving Riley his biggest team since coming to Versailles.
Senior Emily Bohman is the key ingredient in 2007. Like Raterman, she has been playing varsity volleyball since she was a freshman. Now in her final season the 5-9 outside hitter looks poised for a break out year.
Riley and his crew broke the St. Henry streak in the MAC, but fell short of winning state title. In 2007, they hope to take the next step.
“This group is looking to get where we were last year and beyond,” Riley said.
Standing in the way of a Tiger repeat in the MAC is Marion Local. If Raterman is one the state’s best players in D-III, then Abbey Niekamp is certainly one of the best in D-IV. A Florida State commitment, Niekamp and the Flyers are also looking for a state title.
Last year after finishing 18-5, the Flyers were stunned in the sectional by St. Henry. Now Marion and Coach Amy Steininger have their eyes set on Wright State’s Nutter Center and a deep postseason run. However, the Flyers are not looking ahead.
“Really our goal is just to get better with each match,” Steininger said. “We try not to focus on winning the MAC or getting to state.”
Joining Niekamp in the Flyers front row are Kristin Bergman and Megan Barhorst (Cleveland State commit). All three were All-Ohio last season and provide a talented core for the Flyers. Defensively, Barhorst and Niekamp combined for nearly four solo blocks a game. Offensively, Niekamp is the main weapon of choice, but Bergman provides another option for the Flyers.
Marion’s biggest hurdle in 2007 might be the schedule. Not only are the Flyers competing in the MAC, but the non-league schedule includes Anna, Lehman and the Convoy Crestview Invitational. The one guarantee for the Flyers is they will be a well tested team come tournament time.
Although Versailles and Marion Local are the favorites on paper this is the MAC and anything can happen.
St. Henry as always will be a talented squad, but coach Lori Schweiterman noted it could take some time for her team to come together.
Ft. Recovery and New Knoxville have the biggest voids to fill. Recovery lost Tiffany Gaerke, who is now at University of Dayton and Rangers are now without Nicole Wright, who graduated. Wright led the Rangers to a state runner-up in D-IV last season.
Minster and Parkway are two tradition rich programs looking to get back on track in 2006. Parkway was the D-III state runner-up in 2005 and Minster made it to the final four in 2001.
New Bremen, Coldwater and Delphos St. Johns are quality squads. Anyone of the three is capable of putting together a strong tournament run. Last season New Bremen tugged at Versailles tails before eventually falling. The Cavs (a D-III regional semifinalist last season) and Jays have made a habit of tournament runs, making for an interesting October.
Whoever captures the MAC crown is instant state contender.