Jackson Center’s Kim Metz joins rarified company, the joining the ranks of the legendary with her 500th win in Volleyball.
Jackson Center – In a manner of speaking, the Jackson Center High School volleyball team would kill for beloved coach Kim Metz.
They also dig, dink and block for Metz, who the Tigers’ players appreciate for her volleyball savvy as much as her sense of humor.
And all of it was on display Thursday night in an epic match against Shelby County Athletic Conference rival Fort Loramie.
A night that started with Jackson Center honoring its seven senior volleyball players ended with one of them – middle hitter Alicia Kessler – putting away a kill that gave Metz her 500th career coaching victory.
“It feels pretty phenomenal,” Metz said between congratulatory hugs and handshakes from supporters. “The fact I’ve been coaching for 29 years is beyond my wildest comprehension. I think it speaks volumes of the kids we have in our community. The families we have and the support everyone gives. It makes it a neat place to be.”
And Thursday night, there was no better place to be than Jackson Center’s gym. The Tigers’ 26-24, 25-22, 25-18 victory against the Redskins gave the Jackson Center seniors a victory in their final home game and clinched their third straight SCAL league championship.
“We always have a little huddle in the beginning and talk about what we need to do,” Meyer said. “It kind of lit the fire about the 500th win. And Senior Night on top of that. It was really emotional but we came together and got it done just like any other game.”
Metz won her first game in 1988, the start of a 29-year coaching career all at Jackson Center. During that time there have been – among other accomplishments and accolades too numerous to mention – three state tournament appearances (2007, 2008 and 2015) and a state championship in 2015.
The Tigers are again the favorites in Division IV when the postseason arrives. They’re ranked No. 1 in the state in the Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association’s poll with 41 of 52 first-place votes.
“It’s awesome. I remember when we were in the eighth grade she got her 400th win,” said senior Kamryn Elchert. “It’s cool we were able to produce her 500th. We’re so happy we could be a part of it.
“She didn’t say anything about that. She’s very humble about that kind of stuff. We would’ve had no idea. … I couldn’t imagine playing for anybody else in the state. She’s definitely the best.”
Speaking of the best, Jackson Center is strong again with senior Cassie Meyer’s jump serve. Fellow seniors Christen Ware, Camryn Hoehne, Vanessa Winner and Kessler are strong at the net as Elchert sets them up and Miranda Hickey adds key depth. And Metz’s role?
“I’m the benefactor. I’m just walking on the sidelines carrying the clipboard,” Metz said, stepping back from the spotlight to let it shine on her players instead. “We laugh and we have a great time. These kids have such fantastic and spirited personalities. It’s hard not to laugh and have a great time around them.”
Metz was surrounded by her Tigers’ family immediately after Thursday’s win to congratulate her on the milestone victory. Metz, also the school district’s assistant treasurer, was presented with the game ball. She’ll keep on display in her office.
The players weren’t aware Metz was on win No. 499 until seeing it in the local paper. Playing their rival to clinch the SCAL title was pressure enough. That Metz needed one win for the milestone added some more incentive.
“We said let’s play for each other and play for coach Metz,” Hoehne said. “Let’s play for our community. This was our last game so we wanted to leave everything out on the court.”
Jackson Center (21-0 overall, 11-0 SCAL) was on the verge of dropping only its fourth game all season as Fort Loramie led 24-23. But Jackson Center scored the next three points, including Winner’s spike that the Redskins kept alive briefly before failing to get over the net.
In the second game, Jackson Center stormed to an 18-8 lead before Fort Loramie rallied to pull within 19-14. It was 24-22 before the game ended on a Redskins’ serve that went out of bounds.
The third and final game was a back-and-forth battle with Jackson Center leading 16-14. The Tigers won three straight points for some separation, then ran off nine of the final 13 capped by Kessler’s kill.
“I feel so grateful and blessed with this team,” said Kessler, who transferred to Jackson Center from Waynesfield-Goshen as a sophomore. “Without my team I would have never gotten that point. It was a great feeling. … I love playing for her. She’s amazing and a great coach.”
To a player the Tigers described Metz as tough when she needs to be. When that doesn’t need to happen she’s likely laughing, telling jokes or keeping the team at ease. It’s that easy-going personality that helps the Tigers deal with the pressure of being the defending state champions. And going for a repeat.
“She’s really intense when she needs to be,” Ware said. “She understands there are times when you need to goof off and just be a high schooler. There are also times she tells us okay we really need to focus. I think that’s her best quality. She understands us. Playing for her is definitely one of the experiences I’m going to cherish for the rest of my life.”
Added Hoehne: “She’s a big softie. She has a granddaughter now so I think we’re getting it easier.”
The Tigers might be, but there’s been no letup on their opponents.
Jackson Center attempts to close out the regular season undefeated Tuesday at Houston. The Tigers went 29-1 last season.
“It’s always been a dream of our so to be able to get there was amazing,” Hickey said. “We know we have to work really hard. We have that target on our back and we need to keep pushing.”
“We set these dreams a long time ago. Just another accomplishment to add on to the list,” Winner said. “We left everything out there and we worked hard as a team. … It’s unreal how so many thing happened in one game.”
And for Metz, in a career.
She’s 500-264 in her 29-year career. She’s won 13 league titles and 14 district titles along the way.
And by winning No. 500 she joined former Fairlawn coach Wade Wilhelm as the only other coach in Shelby County to hit that milestone. Wilhelm won 571.
Is 600 a possibility?
“We’ll see. I might be in a walker,” Metz joked.
“My husband basically knows I’m going to be at practice or going to watch a game. He’s very supportive. This is like air. That’s what it means to me,” Metz said, her voice trailing off thinking about her team.
“Being with these kids … they’re my kids. They’re mine. We’re just so close. It’s such a precious feeling.”