The Jackson Center Lady Tigers volleyball team is something this season they have never been before: defending state champions. While there is much work to be done, the cupboard is far from bare for veteran coach Kim Metz.
Jackson Center – The best time of year is just beginning for Jackson Center volleyball coach Kim Metz.
“It’s great to be back in the gym,” Metz, beginning her 29th season as Tigers coach, said from her office one day last week. “I’m not gonna lie. I think these kids have been chomping at the bit to get back in and play a lot. There’s a lot of camaraderie. They are great friends and you see that on their faces.”
For the first time in school history, the Tigers are defending state champions after winning the D-IV State crown last November at Wright State’s Nutter Center. The Tigers finished the year 29-1, and have lost just two matches in their last 56 outings over the past two seasons.
Winning that title was a lifetime memory for Metz, who had taken two previous teams to state but fell short of the title.
“I get emotional talking about it even now,” she said with a smile. “One moment that really stood out for me was a timeout in the third set (a 25-9 Tigers win to complete a three game sweep of Tuscarawas Central Catholic.) “I had pretty much lost my voice, and as we huddled, they weren’t listening to me at all. They were coaching each other, and were as intense as they have ever been. They were relying on what they had learned the past 7 of 8 years in the program. That was really rewarding to see.
“When we scored the final point, I remember I cried like a baby, because it had been such a dream of mine since high school. To be on that center stage at the end of the season and to be successful is a dream I had carried with me every season, even when my teams weren’t as stellar.”
Metz said past experience helped give the Tigers an edge going into the final four.
“Several of the seniors had been managers when we went in 2007 and 08,” the coach explained. “So they had gotten a taste of it then. The Nutter Center is such a great, vast place to play that you have to block your surroundings out. These were 14 to 17 year old kids, and we had to get them to use their mental toughness to do the simple things, and rely on their habits.”
While the Tigers graduated nine seniors, they have 7 juniors coming back to try to repeat as champions.
“We lost nine great individuals, and we already see the difference when we are in the gym,” Metz acknowledged. “We have a fun group coming back, and they understand that last year is over.”
The coach doesn’t want to hear any talk about “defending the title.”
“We haven’t proven anything yet. Everyone is 0-0 just like we are. We are aware of what our limitations are, but we are not going to let that hold us back. We know where we want to go, and we want to prove it again.
“The good thing is we have time to put things in place. We don’t have to win the title today. There are a lot of things to consider. Our kids are student-athletes, of course, and they are great in the classroom. They are involved in a lot of things in and out of school outside of volleyball, and they make use of their time very well.”
The Tigers are one of several programs in the Shelby County League and the MAC in a variety of sports that are outstanding every year. Metz said there are a lot of factors that go into that success.
“We have great families that are the backbone of our community and our school, number one. Number two is the school itself, and third is the community. I think when you get those three things working together in your favor, you get great people. Great coaches, great teachers, and great kids. You give the kids some ownership of what they are involved in and you get great effort and dedication.”
The 2016 Tigers will be led by senior Cassie Meyer, who set a state tournament three set record with 21 kills in the state championship match, and senior Kameron Elchert, who had 19 assists in that title clinching victory.
Metz believes that come October and tournament time, her club will be a post-season factor.
“I really think we will be, but I could probably name 10 or 12 schools that have legitimate hopes of winning the title. There is a lot of good fortune that goes into success. You can put a plan in place, but there are a lot of blessings that have to come your way to do what we did last season.”
Twenty nine years is a long time to do anything, but the passion and desire to coach high school volleyball is still very much a part of Kim Metz.
“I have a blast,” she admitted with a laugh. “There is just no place I would rather be than in a gym with my team. Even traveling to away games. People think I am crazy because I drive the bus (a task she also performs for Scott Elchert’s boys basketball team.) Is there an eventual time down the road? Probably, but I think when that happens I will just have to walk away. There won’t be any farewell tour for Kim Metz. I’m still healthy, I have the support of my family, and when that time comes, I will just say thank you.”
Family, school, community, talented players , a veteran coach. It makes for another season of high expectations…in Jackson Center!