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, sports, the outdoors, and music; and he has a degree from the school of music at Ohio State University.

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They cruised to their 17th win of the season Tuesday, and left little doubt as to defending Division IV champs New Bremen’s worthiness to defend during the upcoming tournament.  But just to be sure, we asked coach Diana Kramer.

New Bremen – It looked routine, actually…the New Bremen Cardinals’ seventeenth win of the season Tuesday – 25-17, 25-15, and 25-19 – over a sound, and good Lehman Catholic team (10-8) coached by Greg Snipes.

As they usually do, the Cardinals came out aggressively, served, passed, defended and spread the offense around.  No fewer than six players had five or more kills;  and libero Blake Snider had her customary double figures for digs, with 13.

Ranked #2 in a recent poll of state coaches, behind St. Henry (in Division IV) and just ahead of Marion Local and Fort Recovery, the Cardinals appeared more than ready – and capable – of defending their 2017 state championship in the upcoming tournament that starts in just two short weeks.

There is no Paige Jones, to be sure, who afforded Coach Diana Kramer the luxury of taking the court last year, knowing she had the best player in the state, but that doesn’t seem to matter to Kramer and this edition of Cardinal volleyball.  She has plenty of experience back from that title team of 2017, and the byword for 2018 is, and has been…share the responsibility, and share the wealth.  Everyone scores, everyone defends, and everyone contributes in one manner or another.

“It’s a different group,”  said Kramer recently.  “There is no Paige Jones now, but this is a tough bunch of girls – really tough.  They’ve been there, they have that experience from last year, and they all came back with the goal of repeating.”

Wilson Sports Medicine is the official medical provider for the New Bremen Cardinals.

And ironically, they’ve nearly repeated last year’s record of 27-1.  As of Tuesday’s win over Lehman, the Cardinals stand 17-2, having lost only to #1-ranked St. Henry (two weeks ago) and to unranked New Knoxville, who beat them last weekend.  Tuesday’s match was their first action since that Saturday loss, and Kramer was more than pleased with the way they responded.

Bremen’s Macy Puthoff tucks a point over the net in Tuesday’s sweep of Lehman Catholic.

“We played like we’ve been playing all year,”  she said.  “We make no excuses for losing on Saturday, and everything that’s happened in our first 20 matches has been a learning experience.  I think we learned from Saturday, and we learned from tonight.  This was a very good Lehman team – well-coached, Greg Snipes is a fabulous coach, and a team that plays ball control as anyone you’ll see.  They serve aggressively and I think they’re better than their record because their losses have all come against state-ranked teams.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in the regional finals.

“But tonight we spread the offense around, we served aggressively, and Saturday was definitely a motivation for us.  We came out tonight with energy, focus, and passion.  And that’s how we should have played all season.”

“What I’ve learned is that there’s seven coaches and teams in the district that believe they can make it to the regional tournament.”  – Diana Kramer

Of course, Kramer and the Cardinals are in an enviable position…that of being the defending champions and ranked just one position beneath that which they held all of 2017.  So it begs the obvious question:  With nineteen matches under your belt, Diana Kramer, what do you know now about your team that you didn’t know at the start of the year?

“What I’ve learned about my team is that when teams prepare for us…we’re going to serve aggressively,”  she answered.  “But the unknown thing about our team is…they don’t know which player is going to step up on a given night and lead us in kills.  Every game someone different leads us in kills, digs, and blocks.  We are the true definition of a team this year.  That’s how it’s been all year, and that’s how I expect it to be going forward.  Sometimes it’s a bad thing when a coach doesn’t know who to rely on, but for the New Bremen Cardinals this year it’s a really, really good thing.”

That said, what does she know about the competition in her district, given the upcoming tournament?

“What I’ve learned about everyone else is…the competition in Division IV is really, really good.  On any given night anyone can win.  And I know that in our district, and the ten teams there, there are seven coaches and teams that honestly believe they can make it to the regional tournament?”

And finally, given that the district is that balanced, what’s the one team you wouldn’t want to face on a given night?

Nothing beats a happy toddler – Savannah Kramer is all smiles following the Cardinals’ latest win.

“I really don’t want to pick a team,”  added Kramer.  “But I wouldn’t want to play a team from the MAC, and that’s my answer.  And Jackson Center is another team that you probably think of in that respect because they’re so well prepared.  But what I will tell you is…that on October 2, 2018, I’m placing a wager that the team that wins the southwest  regional will go on to win the state title in Division IV.  And that team’s either going to come from the MAC, the Shelby County League, or be Sidney Lehman.”

So on a night when Greg Snipes’ Cavaliers did not play their best volleyball – on a night where the reigning champs turned in a pedestrian win in three sets – the coach of the champions was no less quotable, and confident that the competition from her area has at least prepared the her team to defend their title.

You won’t read that Wednesday from any other source in Ohio.  But then again…no one else in the state plays volleyball in Division IV like they do in the MAC, the Shelby County League, and at Sidney Lehman.

So says Diana Kramer.  Wagers, anyone?

 

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