Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has a music degree from Ohio State University.

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Flashing as impressive a performance as any seen in area volleyball thus far, Coldwater sent neighboring St. Henry home Thursday night…quick, efficient, and empty-handed.

Coldwater, OH – There was a lot of uneaten popcorn at Coldwater’s Palace Gymnasium Thursday night.  A lot of people probably bought enough for a five-set drama between two of the MAC’s mega-powers in volleyball as 6-4 St. Henry and 10-1 Coldwater squared off to at least claim bragging rights on Ohio route 118.  The season’s still young, of course.

However, let the buyer beware in all things concessions because Coldwater ended any thoughts of drama, or even five-sets, with a thorough straight-set win over St. Henry, 25-21, 25-22, and 25-12…in a match that lasted an hour and seven minutes.

It went so quick that valet parking was still putting them away by the time people needed their cars.

The thing that lasted longest was the impression made on area volleyball by Nikki Etzler’s Cavaliers against another of the area’s best. The Cavaliers are big, youthful, talented, and organized in mind, soul, and body to execute at the highest level.

“It’s just a good team effort,”  said Annelise Harlamert, one of just three seniors on the team.  “The leadership is stellar.  Everyone’s in it, everyone wants to win, whether you’re on the court or off the court.  It’s just fun to be around.”

They have size with 5’10” Morgan Blasingame, 5’11” Madison Wendel, and 6’4″ Riley Rismiller.  They have athleticism with that size.  And they’re coached by one of the area’s most respected, in the veteran Etzler.

And, they had a convenient rival Thursday with St. Henry, with its own stellar reputation, a program that’s knocked on the state final door in recent years under coach Tricia Rosenbeck without being granted entry.  But St. Henry has won state titles (seven of them, the last in 2011), and is always a threat for one more.

St. Henry’s Brianna Siefring stretches to save a point in the first set of Thursday’s match with Coldwater.

It was close in the first set, with St. Henry claiming a 4-point lead at one point, only to see Coldwater use its serving and blocking ability to edge its way back into the game and eventually catch the Redskins, overcoming a 16-12 deficit.  The Cavaliers would score 9 of the final 14 points of the set to win it, 25-21.

“I think we’re a super athletic team, and we really work hard in practice,”  said fellow senior Kadance Blockberger.  “We all work every day to push each other to be as good as we can be.  We served so well tonight, and that’s one of our biggest assets this year.”

They pushed that asset in game two, another contested affair that saw Coldwater claim the lead early, then saw St. Henry fight back from a seven-point deficit to eventually close the margin to 24-22.  And truthfully, there weren’t a lot of things that went the Redskins way.  Serves that teetered on the top of the net that fell over out of reach…well-placed shots that found a spot where there was no defender…and the eventual frustration of fighting so hard to catch up that you don’t have enough to pull ahead.  Things seemed out of whack!

But Coldwater had a lot to do with making it out of whack.

Their size at the net was impressive.

Their athleticism, to borrow from Blockberger, was on display from the first point to the last.

And rarely do you see a team serve better, or receive serve better, than Coldwater did Thursday night.

Coldwater’s Riley Rismiller  snaps a point past the block attempt of St. Henry’s Avery Schmitz.

Up two games to none, the Cavs put the hammer down early in the final set, jumping out to a 7-2 margin, expanding it to double digits on the strength of a strong service game from junior Jenna Leugers (who served three consecutive aces at one point), and finished things in just sixteen minutes, 25-12.

Nikki Etzler wanted to grin ear to ear, but deferred instead to pay tribute to St. Henry before enjoying her own team’s excellence.

“When you play them every rotation and every point is a battle,” she said.  “So I have so much respect for Tricia and what she does at St. Henry.  She has great players.”

But on this night…Etzler’s players were greater – a very smooth, well-oiled effort!

“Well, they work very hard.  I think they learn from their errors,”  said Etzler.  “I see the growth in how they work to keep their composure, and that’s exciting for the coaching staff.  And they really work on serve and receive in practice, and that’s a huge part of how the momentum changed in the first game, and how we sustained that momentum in the final two sets.

“We have some very aggressive servers, and tonight we talked about that being the first place where you can score a point for the team.  We picked it up in the middle of the first set and did a great job from there to the end.”

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The other senior along with Harlamert and Blockberger is 5’5″ Aubrey Koester.  The remainder of the Cavs’ roster is made up of three sophomores (including Madison Wendel), and three juniors (including Rismiller and Leugers).  That portends well for this year and next.

“Any time you can serve aggressively and take them out of their offense it’s a good thing,”  added Etzler.  “They have a good offense.  Brianna Siefring is a beast on the outside, and we were able to take some of that away tonight.”

At 10-1 it’s hard to imagine they’re as good as they will be, given they have a full half season left to play, and conference co-favorite New Bremen, along with New Knoxville, still to play. Their lone loss came to Knoxville two weeks ago.

“There’s so many aspects that we’re working on, as individuals and as a team,”  said Etzler.  “I’m hoping the growth continues if we keep working hard.  And some of these girls are young, and Riley (Rismiller) is a great basketball player and she’s just now getting her volleyball legs.  But I like what I see.”

They all liked what they saw in the Palace Thursday, at least those who got there in time to see it.  And you know…among all the state titles they’ve won at Coldwater in football and baseball, they’ve never won one in volleyball.   They don’t come easy, of course.

And they don’t come quickly.

Much longer…than an hour and seven minutes.

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