The recently recognized, #1-ranked Fort Loramie Redskins showed their stuff Tuesday with a convincing 3-0 win over Russia…league title in hand, and on to bigger things.
Fort Loramie, OH – They left little doubt in anyone’s mind.
None of the nearly one thousand who witnessed Tuesday’s 3-0 win over rival Russia, from Loramie or Russia, left the gym with any question that the 2023 Fort Loramie Redskins were not only the premier team in the Shelby County League…but were probably somewhat justified to wear their newly bestowed ranking as the #1 team in state, Division IV. Rankings, you understand, are tough to prove outside of going head-to-head with the arch enemy, like a scene from Pale Rider, and Clint Eastwood.
But head-to-head in the Shelby County League this year? No question.
And head-to-head in sectional/district tournament that awaits, where the Redskins are the #1 seed, bracketed with Jefferson, East Dayton Christian, Franklin-Monroe, Botkins and Ansonia? They would seem to hold all the cards.
None of those teams have beaten the state’s #2 team, New Bremen. But Fort Loramie has.
None of those teams have beaten a team in the top ten of Division IV. Loramie has…three of them. Marion Local (#9), Jackson Center (#10), and New Bremen.
At 20-2 their only losses came at the hands of Division III St. Henry, and one of those was a best of three in a season-opening exhibition. Three weeks ago, in a return matchup, Loramie fell to St. Henry again, in five sets!
“It’s the latest in the year that we’ve ever been voted #1,” said coach John Rodgers, Tuesday. “But rankings don’t tell you everything. You’ve still got to go out and play.”
Three hours later, play they did play on Senior Night, knocking out Russia (11-10, 7-5 in SCL), 25-11, 25-9, and 25-13. So precise, focused, and efficient were the Redskins in their ‘system’ of play…it resembled a play on words – receive serve, pass, kill, and repeat. Over, and over, and over, they blocked a Russia scoring attempt, controlled the ball, made a well-timed pass to one of their hitters – Summer Hoying or Victoria Mescher – and they put down the shot with force.
“We played really well,” said senior Skyler Albers. “I think our communication was really good, plus we tell each other that if you mess up it’s OK. We just keep playing.
“We’ve been working hard on serve-receive, and our serve, and it’s amazing how much better we’ve gotten over the season. Right now it’s really working.”
Really working? Impressive, for the fact of a point score in the first set where it took 14 touches of the ball in an unusually long volley, before Loramie finally put the shot down for a point…the 10th point in an impressive 10-4 run to start the match.
They began the second set with a 9-2 run…again, serve receive, pass, kill, and repeat.
Before it was over the threw the kitchen sink at overwhelmed Russia, a talented, but young team who drew the #3 seed in last weekend’s tournament draw, but in a bracket opposite of Loramie. It’s unlikely – or is it – that they could have played better?
“The girls are comfortable with each other right now,” said Rodgers, post-game. “We’ve used a lot of different lineups this year, trying to find what works best, and they have a huge input with that. They tell me this works, that doesn’t work, and this is what we need to do. And that’s the definition of what this team is. They’re in charge of it. It’s their team. They have to be comfortable to play well, and they’ve found something that they like.
“Our girls have trained so hard. Practices have been harder than matches for these girls. As a coach you can push them, but right now they’re doing it on their own. Now, with the tournament coming next week it’s on them to continue on and carry that kind of confidence and play forward. They know that. Now it’s a different animal, and they know that. It’s on them. They’ve created something good for themselves, they’ve taken ownership of it, they’re accountable, and they’re really making sure that each other are ready to play all the time. Now it becomes a mental thing to get to the places we want to go. You have to put your best serve in, or take a big swing at crunch time with confidence. And so far this year they’ve been able to do that.”
Skyler Albers was all smiles. Closing out the regular season with a win over their backyard rival, and the anticipation for what they’ve worked for all summer and fall…tournament play begins next week.
“We’re all excited to keep on playing,” she added before going home Tuesday. “We all feel good, our practices have been good, and we don’t want to play down to another team’s level. We want to play to our level…to keep playing really well.”
It’s been ten years since they won their one and only state title in volleyball, against McComb.