It was quick – #1 seed Fort Loramie and #3 Russia swept aside opening opponents Triad and Tri-County North in the first round of the Troy Division IV volleyball tournament.
Troy – At some point in the future, but probably the distant future, someone’s gonna’ take a long-standing notion to heart regarding opening round mismatches in the OHSAA volleyball, basketball, and baseball tournaments.
And that is, if you don’t win a requisite number of matches during the regular season, maybe you don’t play in the tournament. Simple as that. Or is it?
The argument has always been that the athletes look forward to the challenge of a #22 seed (Triad, 1-22) playing a #1 seed (Fort Loramie, 21-2) – that it’s an experience they’ll cherish for the rest of their lives. But after losing to Fort Loramie in the straight sets Tuesday, 25-6, 25-14, and 25-7, you might wonder if the Cardinals wouldn’t cherish a mental cleansing more, and the beginning of basketball practice in a couple of weeks.
In the second match of Tuesday’s opener the #20 seed, Tri-County North (3-20) took on the #3 seed Russia (13-10), and while the Panthers from the Cross County Conference scored more points, the result was about the same. Russia scored a straight set victory to advance, 25-14, 25-16, and 25-7.
As to the reality of the argument about every team playing in the tournament…the more teams, the more games. The more games you have the more ticket sales – revenue. Except in this case, for the Loramie-Triad match the Southwest District treasurer won’t like the bottom line. An actual count of the house showed 65 people there to see it. Granted, it began at 5:15 pm, and a lot of people were still at work, but it was over in 44 minutes and some probably wondered what they would do for the rest of the evening.
Statistically, Loramie’s win left coach John Rodgers with very little to talk about, post-game. The good news was his team advanced. The better news was that no one turned an ankle. Rodgers, one of the state’s best, was brief with his comments.
“This was one of those instances where we really had to focus on keeping our game speed up,” he opened with. “So our thing was to keep the speed up, play at our tempo, and do the things we worked on in practice.
“And we did that from time to time, and some things that I think will give the girls confidence as we go down the road. You hope to be challenged because this is the time of the year you’re supposed to be peaking, but you keep those thoughts in the back of your mind and don’t let any opponent get in the front of your mind. You worry about tournament jitters regardless of what seed you are. It doesn’t matter if your #1 or #22. This is the tournament and you’re a little nervous, and you have to overcome that. And for that reason, with this behind us I think we’ll be better on Saturday.”
As we noted, the night’s second match offered little more in terms of drama as the other Shelby County League powerhouse, Russia, took the entire hour to knock out Tri-County North.
“A win’s a win,” said Raiders coach Aaron Watkins. “We could have been sharper, and I hope that there were some first-game jitters with playing six freshmen. That’s bound to happen. It wasn’t the cleanest, or the best, but we’ll take it.”
And is it hard to overlook the other team’s record, or seed – not take things for granted?
“I’d say there’s a little bit of that,” added Watkins. “We didn’t play with as much energy as we usually do. I got on ’em a little for that in the second set and I thought we finally played more like we should in the third.”
As to the prospect of nerves, and how you overcome it in a win-or-else format, Watkins has his own views on what’s yet ahead.
“Actually, the last week of practice has been our best week of the year, so the girls knows what’s in front of them. They’ve picked it up a bit because they know about the opportunity they have. Last year I would have been more concerned about being challenged in the early games, but this year, with our youth, I don’t expect to breeze by anyone. I think our next opponent will be a good match, I think the district will present more of a challenge, so I expect to have some good matches before we get to the regionals.”
That’s right. Aaron Watkins, youth notwithstanding, expects to get to the regional round of the tournament and has reminded any and all of that goal from the outset of the season. There’s never been any mention of jitters.
Loramie will next play #23 Jefferson, who took a first-round bye and had one win at the tournament draw date, at 11 am Saturday at Troy High School. While Russia will meet #18 Bradford (4-16 at the draw) in the 2 pm matchup at Troy.
Finally, if Tuesday’s openers didn’t convince anyone about requisite wins for tournament qualification…it said volumes about the quality of volleyball played in the Shelby County League. Loramie is a past state champion. Jackson Center (#4 seed in the Covington sectional) is a past two-time state champion, and Russia is vying for a return to the regional round of the tournament.
And speaking to the resiliency of high school athletes and the disappointment of seeing their season come to an end…the Triad Cardinals probably won’t dwell on Tuesday nearly as long as the St. Louis Cardinals. Apparently even the best can have jitters – sometimes for four games straight!