FAIRBORN – Tradition trumped upstart Friday in a Division IV volleyball state semifinal at Wright State University’s Nutter Center.
Defending state champion Norwalk St. Paul, making its fifth trip to state in six years, dispatched newcomer Jackson Center 25-19, 28-26 and 25-22 to advance to the fourth state championship in school history. The Flyers (26-2) go for their third title Saturday at 6 p.m. against Maria Stein Marion Local.
Jackson Center finishes 25-4.
“I felt very relaxed going out on the floor,” St. Paul coach Nancy Miller said. “I felt very confident in our warm-up and I didn’t feel jitters. The girls looked like they were in control.”
“It helps that we’ve been here before,” senior Victoria Spaar said.
The decisive frame was the second game when Jackson Center seemed poised to tie the contest 1-1. Ahead 24-16, the Tigers couldn’t get the game-winner as St. Paul scored nine straight points to take a 25-24 lead. JC finally ended the streak with a score of its own, but the Flyers took three of the next five points for the win.
“We did catch the momentum and we’re really riding the wave,” Jackson Center head coach Kim Metz said. “Was it their experience of being here so many years (that turned the momentum back)? Tradition speaks volumes.”
“The girls just decided they weren’t going to be denied,” Miller said. “They were willing to fight.”
In the third game, St. Paul rallied from a 20-18 deficit by scoring five straight points and seven of the contest’s last nine to advance.
Second team All-Ohio selection Christine Dow paced the Flyers with 18 kills, while first teamer Adrea Fritz dished out a game-high 37 assists.
St. Paul rides a 23-match win streak into the final. Jackson Center had a 16-game win streak snapped.
“I think that defense is our biggest plus but on offense we are definitely balanced,” Miller said. “I feel like we can make a team run pin to pin and attack from anywhere.”
Junior Alyssa Ware (first team All-Ohio) led JC with 16 kills and sophomore Casey Gates (third team) added 11. Juniors Cortnee Sosby and Bethany Hoehne had 20 and 17 assists, respectively.
The Tigers, making their first state berth after advancing to the regionals five of the last six years, played just one senior and have a junior class nine deep.
Attention turns immediately to a return trip.
“Sure the tears are rolling and the emotions are extremely high,” Metz said. “But a lot of positive things will be drawn out of this and carried into next season. Our biggest goal is to get back. I’m sure the planning will begin Monday.”