After seeing their season ended the last two years by Anna in the regionals, the Tigers rolled the Rockets and extracted some revenge 25-18, 25-20 and 25-22 at Wilmington High School.
Versailles (24-2) faces Cincinnati Roger Bacon (18-8) in the regional final at 4 p.m. Saturday. Anna finishes 23-4. The Rockets were ranked No. 4 in the state, while Versailles is No. 2.
The difference in the match was the depth and size of the Tigers and execution.
“We knew coming in that we had a size advantage,” Versailles coach Jeremy Riley said. “We keyed on their two middle hitters, knowing that their entire offense revolved around them.”
The Versailles defense zeroed in on Anna’s Kelli Barhorst and Laura Gehret.
“We knew we would have to take them off their game and have our outside hitters on,” Anna coach Karen Zumberger said. “But they played as well as I have seen them play and good for Versailles. I hope they can take it all the way.”
Offensively, the Tigers were able to offset the Rockets’ aggressive service game and transition into the offense quickly. Leading this was of course Riley’s two seniors Justine Raterman and Emily Bohman.
Raterman finished with 15 kills, 15 assists and three blocks. Bohman, from her outside hitting position, tallied 10 kills. Sophomore middle hitter Megan Campbell had six kills and seven blocks.
“We wanted to have double blocking and force them to the outside,” Riley said. “Megan is very smart and has come a long way. But, I just can’t say enough about how well the girls played tonight.”
Riley’s game plan worked to perfection and it started immediately in the first game. Versailles’ Brittany Dabe served the team to a 10-5 advantage and the Tigers took command of the game and the match.
Neutralizing the Rockets frontcourt, the Tigers attacked, building a 17-11 advantage. The rest of match the teams traded points, which was fine with Versailles as they won the first game 25-18.
Up 1-0 the Tigers sought a repeat of the first game while Anna searched for anything against the Tiger Wall.
One option for Anna was to allow Barhorst to attack from the back row, but that had minimal results. Like the first game the Rockets fell behind 10-4. With Versailles’ back row of Shelby Shimp (30 serve receptions) and Brittany Dabe clicking, the Tigers had virtually no holes on the court.
The end result was the continued quick transition from defense to offense. The ability of Versailles to do this made them nearly unstoppable at the net. With control of the net the Tigers continued to push forward in the second game. Eventually they won it 25-20 and now had a commanding 2-0 match advantage.
Game 3 was critical for both squads. Anna needed a victory to just stay alive, while Versailles sought to finish the match in three games.
Unlike the first two games, Anna hung around and even enjoyed a minor lead most of the game. It appeared as if a game four was coming after Ariane Billing served Anna to a 20-18 advantage.
But those thoughts quickly faded when Versailles went back on the attack. Campbell gave the Tigers their first lead of the night 22-21 on her serve. From there the Tigers roared to the finish line, winning the game 25-22 and the match 3-0.
Following the highly emotional win Riley started to look towards Saturday and the regional final.
“We need to make sure we did not expand too much energy tonight,” Riley said. “But we will be ready for Saturday.”
As for Anna the loss breaks a two-year run to the state final four and marks the end of Ohio State-bound Kelli Barhorst’s high school career. The Rockets went 30-0 last season en route to the school’s first Division III state title.
“Keli is one of those players that are irreplaceable, but I hope she created a lot of good memories for herself,” Zumberger said. “She should be proud of what she has accomplished for this community.”