Paige Jones set a tourney record for kills, and wore down a determined Buckeye Central with a 3-1 in the Division IV state semi-final to advance to Saturday’s title round.
Fairborn – Except for one lone hiccup, there was little else to say. Just ask Buckeye Central and coach Jaclyn Reinhart. The name of the game in Thursday afternoon’s Division IV semi-final match…was New Bremen’s Paige Jones.
And at the risk of being repetitive, that’s what the last 27 New Bremen opponents would say, as well. It’s awfully hard to beat Bremen when Paige Jones plays as well as she did Thursday at the Nutter Center, in Fairborn.
Jones set a tournament record for kills (47), and that’s a record for a five-set match. She beat the old one…by 18! This one only went four, with Bremen pulling away after a horrible first-match start, 22-25, 25-16, 25-23, and 25-18.
But 47 kills hardly summed up her afternoon. She kicked in 6 assists, served well, blocked a couple of shots…and oh yeah, finished with 20 digs, as well. She likes to be well-rounded.
“She’s as relentless as anyone we’ve seen in the playoffs,” said Buckeye Central’s Reinhart afterwards. “We really never saw anyone like her during the regular season schedule. She’s a great player, and she can do everything on the court.”
Even OHSAA commissioner Dan Ross was wide-eyed, sitting courtside, watching intently as Jones’ statistics began to add up.
“Wow,” he offered. “She’s a pretty good volleyball player. And she’s going to MIchigan?”
Go figure, Commish.
But that lone hiccup was a cause for concern at the outset for a huge Bremen crowd that was was running on 220 before they ever took their seats. Just like the regional final game with Loramie, New Bremen came out with a contagious case…of nerves. Too many mistakes, poor serving, lethargic – the moment, for the moment, simply seemed too big. Buckeye Central jumped out to a 15-3 lead, played aggressively, and had the Cardinals backing up – on their heels.
“Same thing we did against Loramie,” said Bremen coach Diana Kramer. “It was the regional finals all over again. But that’s what happens in life. Sometimes you’re faced with a big challenge, or a job interview, and you get nervous. But you have to find a way to get past the nerves because you know that you deserve the job, and that’s what happened with us today.”
What happened that went unnoticed…was the way Bremen came back from that 15-3 deficit in the first set. They began to serve better, an ace here, and ace there, confidence began to rise, and before you knew it they were back to within five. They lost the set, but their comeback set the stage for the way they would play for the rest of the match.
“No question about it,” added Kramer. “The way we lost the first set helped us win the next three. We served better, we got back on our game, and Paige just kept pounding it at them.”
They took the second set, 25-16, with Jones finding her stroke, and a bit of shell shock seemed to come over Buckeye Central. She found open spots left, center, and right, and try as they might (and BC did), eventually Jones wore down their resolve.
But Central came back in the third, and actually led 17-13, when Jones, Macy Puthoff, and Taylor Paul began to throw aces at them with the service game. Bam…just like that it was 24-23 and Jones pounding down another kill to finish the set, 25-23. Losing that lead so quickly – like jerking defeat from the jaws of victory – set the tone for the fourth set that quickly buried Buckeye Central.
Jones kept hammering kills. Puthoff, Paul, and Rachel Kramer were hammering serves with laser-like accuracy, and you could see the air began to hiss from Buckeye Central’s balloon. In short, the aggressive style that served Bremen well through 27 games simply wore them down.
“I really began to feel it at the end of the first set,” said Jones, of her spectacular statistical day. “It started to feel better after we got the momentum back at the end of the first set.”
But she had so much help, the underbelly of this Bremen team that so often goes unpublished.
Taylor Paul added seven timely kills; and Julia Goettemoeller took advantage of Buckeye’s pre-occupation with looking for Jones with six kills of her own.
They were there when necessary, but the statistical fact of the day was Jones…47 kills in 109 attempts, for a .358 average. That’s a batting title in baseball.
They’ll move on now to Saturday’s final round to face Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas, who won in straight sets over Lancaster Christian.
What would it mean to the school, the community, and the legacy of New Bremen, Ohio to come home Saturday even with the Division IV title?
“Everything,” said Diana Kramer. “It means more than anything people know. This town deserves it. These girls deserve it. Everything that’s happening now they’ve worked hard for it. They’ve worked for this moment long before I was part of the program. So with that being said, I’ve got a lot of thank you’s to go to people. But the bottom line…we deserve it.”
“This community has supported us so much,” added Paige Jones, expressing her appreciation for the huge partisan crowd that came out to watch. “So Saturday is our time to give back to them. They have been here for us this entire year, and last year, as well. We can’t do without them; and the student section today was tremendous, our seventh man because they help keep our energy high.”
“You can’t describe what this feels like,” said Taylor Paul, of Saturday’s opportunity to play for the title. “Our team wants it so bad – our community wants it so bad – so we want to do it for them and hopefully we can pull through.”
Well, news travels fast in the social media world. And somewhere Thursday afternoon you know that Michigan coach Mark Rosen had gotten the news. When a recruit scores 47 kills, and contributes to at least 75 of its teams points under state finals pressure, that’s cause for celebration.
But in New Bremen, Ohio, they’d take one more such performance from Paige Jones before celebrating, and before bidding her adieu and off to that school up north. They want that first team title in the history of the school – in the history of the community – in the worst possible way.
This is their time. Cardinal time. “Go crazy,” broadcaster Jack Buck once said.
You ain’t seen nothing, not yet. Wait ‘til you see…if they do it on Saturday!