They found their groove and they were unstoppable. Loramie rebounds from Tuesday’s loss to claim the season series against Botkins.
By Greg Billing
Fort Loramie – Fort Loramie High School’s volleyball has the talent on the court. And sometimes just as important to success, the Redskins have the intangibles off it.
Camaraderie can be equally important as kills. The Redskins have had plenty of both this season.
On Thursday, Fort Loramie responded to a tough five-set loss to Anna two days earlier with a solid 25-15, 25-14, 25-17 win against visiting Botkins. The Redskins trailed just once during the three games when the Trojans jumped out to a quick 5-1 lead to start the match.
“Botkins has come a long way this season,” Fort Loramie coach John Rodgers said. “(Botkins coach Brian Trego) has done a great job with them. He’s a good friend of mine and a great coach. He gets his team ready to play and they fight. You have to beat them. They’re not going to beat themselves.
“Once we got into a rhythm I felt real good about what we were doing.”
Mostly because of who he had on his side of the net. Seniors Taylor Ernst (13 digs), Caleigh Barhorst (13 kills), Sara Stang (10 kills) and Maeve Hilgefort powered the Redskins (10-5 overall, 6-2 in Shelby County League) to their second win over Botkins (4-9, 1-7 SCL) this season. Junior Sophia Albers – who is getting more comfortable at setter after shifting from her outside hitting position five games ago – had 25 assists and seven digs.
As for Botkins, the Trojans showed improvement from that earlier three-set loss to the Redskins on Aug. 30 when Loramie won 25-9, 25-17, 25-17.
The Trojans – who received solid efforts from seniors Jenna Pitts, Casey Woodall, Alexis Jones and junior Sarah Bergman – looked to slow down the Redskins outside game. But Loramie still received some floor-pounding kills from Barhorst.
Meanwhile, middle hitters Hilgefort and juniors Brooke Raterman and Morgan Holscher combined for a handful of points and blocks.
“That’s the key to success. My philosophy is you have to keep it spread out,” Rodgers said. “We have some inexperience, but we also have the players who can do it when things are going right. I’m real happy with our progress coming off a tough one Tuesday night.”
Trego was also pleased with his teams progress, especially jumping out to that early lead. But the Trojans trailed 8-3 to start the second game and 8-2 to start the third.
“We played much better than we did the first time,” Trego said. “We just had too many mental mistakes and little gaps where we gave two or three points in a row.
“We had to focus on something and we focused on trying to take the outside away. I thought in game three we did a much better job of that. … We weren’t always making great passes, but we weren’t standing there watching balls drop. We just have to take the next step and get that dig and get into the offense.”
Digs were tough to come by at times Tuesday, especially when Albers set up Barhorst.
Barhorst closed out the match with a rocket that Jones did well to get under, but sent it out of bounds. That final kill gave Barhorst 209 on the season.
“I don’t even like to go up against her,” Rodgers said, laughing. “She’s just a special kid. She loves the sport and she’s dedicated herself to the sport. I take her out of the game to give her some rest and get some rookies in there and she gets mad at me. She just wants to play. This is her playground out here on the court.”
The Redskins are having fun off the court, too. Practice will be short today so the team can carpool to watch the football team play at Hardin Northern. That’s just one of the team-building activities the players engage in.
Embracing their roles is another. Rodgers said he wanted to try something different with the offense so he moved Albers to setter. She now leads the team with 188 assists.
“Sophia Albers is really learning the game here. It’s nice to see her smile on the court,” Rodgers said. “She’s in a different position and she’s finally starting to get comfortable and it’s starting to show. She’s doing a really good job out there for us. My others players were doing a great job and my other setters are still on the court. It’s just a different look. You’re looking for that cohesion to jell them together.”
That’s key when battling teams like state ranked Jackson Center and Anna in the SCL. And then there’s the non-conference schedule. Fort Loramie plays no less than seven non-conference teams that are state ranked by the Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association.
In Division IV alone, Jackson Center is No. 1, Marion Local is No. 5, Fort Loramie is No. 6 and New Bremen is No. 7.
Fort Loramie also has Ottawa-Glandorf (No. 2 in D-II), Middletown Fenwick (No. 6, D-II), Versailles (No. 13, D-III), Fort Recovery (No. 14, D-III) and Minster (No. 12, D-IV) on the schedule.
“Our non-league schedule is as tough as anybody in the state,” Rodgers said. “But it prepares us for what we’re going to have to deal with down the road.”
And no matter what challenge comes Fort Loramie’s way, they’ll take it on the same way they’ve played this season … together.