Bring On Calvert: Cards Sweep Redskins; Face Rematch

Members of the New Bremen volleyball team come together during a timeout in the third set of a Division IV regional semifinal volleyball match against St. Henry om Thursday at the Elida Fieldhouse. The Cardinals advanced with a 3-0 win for a rematch against Tiffin Calvert on Saturday.
Sports Editor

The New Bremen student section chanted "we want Calvert" near the end of Thursday's Division IV regional semifinal against St. Henry and that's who they'll get.

The Cardinals made it look easy in getting past their archival and top-seeded St. Henry — a matchup that has become a must-see in the last two years —  in a 25-19, 25-21, 25-20 victory at the Elida Fieldhouse.

The Redskins entered Friday's match winners of two of the last three meetings between the two teams, but they lost a five-setter in last season's district final and suffered their first sweep of the season on Thursday as their season ends at 23-3.

"I don't think anybody expected the match to end in just three sets," Cardinals coach Diana Kramer said. "It was all just a matter of responding to mistakes and essentially, every point is a mistake by somebody, but we found ways to respond a little better than St. Henry did tonight."

The Cardinals (25-1) win, coupled with a three-set sweep by Tiffin Calvert (25-1) against Miller City in the late game sets up a rematch between the two teams that faced off in last season's state final that the Senecas won and while last year's match up was at Wright State and Saturday's rematch is for the right to play back there.

The two teams — a combined 50-2 record between the two — will square off at 2 p.m. Saturday in Elida. 

New Bremen jumped out to a 7-2 lead — recording four kills during that span — in the first set and that was enough to keep the Redskins at bay as St. Henry drew a close as one point just once.

Six ties ensued in the second set until the Cardinals rode a 5-0 run with Diana Heitkamp serving after Marlee Vaughn's serve error to give the Cardinals a 14-9 lead. Heitkamp recorded an ace and Macy Puthoff produced back-to-back kills during that run. 

St. Henry pulled to 19-16 before Josie Reinhart served after Kaylee Freund's tip at the net and the Cardinals extended the lead to 23-16 thanks to a 4-0 run that included a block at the net, a Taylor Paul kill and a kill that landed out of bounds for the Redskins as the Cardinals closed out for a 2-0 set lead.

St. Henry led 13-8 after three ties and five errors by the Cardinals, but New Bremen regained the serve when Brianna Siefring's serve smacked into the net to allow Heitkamp to serve down 14-10. The junior started with an ace and a serve that was not returned by St. Henry to force a Redskins' timeout with a 14-12 score. 

New Bremen continued to chip away on a Paul kill, tied the set with a tip at the net by Claire Pape and eventually took the lead for good on Paul's tip at the net. A St. Henry kill that landed out of bounds concluded a 6-0 run by the Cardinals for a 16-14 lead. Riding that momentum, New Bremen extended the lead to five on a 4-0 run with Paul serving as the Cardinals' front line recorded blocks from Puthoff and a pair from Pape for a 20-15 lead. 

At that point, the Cardinals were firing on all cylinders with the power of Paul, Puthoff and Reinhart combined with the change of pace shots by Pape and Freund and Heitkamp's serving and defense in the backcourt. Kramer said that run began when Heitkamp served at the line and did what she does best — make somebody move and find a way to turn New Bremen's defense into offense.

"You essentially named every player on our team and that is what it takes at this level and I told them that after the match," Kramer said. "'Stats that don't really matter … everyone did there job and that is the most important thing. It doesn't matter who led us in kills or digs or any of that stuff.

"We have to come together as a team, stay together as a team and find a way."

Now the Cardinals will play in a regional championship for the fourth straight year as they vie for their third straight state appearance against Calvert — a team that earned its first state title against the Cardinals last season in a five-set battle. The Senecas return their entire roster from last year's state-champion team minus one player in setter Sophie Burtis, but Kramer added that sophomore Emma White is a collegiate Division I-caliber setter that Calvert possesses. The Senecas have only lost three sets all season and have not lost a set in any match since Sept. 3 as they enter Saturday's match on a 19-game win streak.