One More Game: Cardinals To Face Loramie In Final

New Bremen’s Ashton Heitkamp (left) and Kaylee Freund (7) leap to block Monroeville’s Maura Brown’s shot over the net during a Division IV state semifinal volleyball game on Friday at Wright State University’s Nutter Center.
Sports Editor

New Bremen coach Diana Kramer pointed to the fact that her team has faced a number of rematches from last season in this year’s playoffs and what’s one more?

The Cardinals outlasted Friday’s rematch with Monroeville in a 22-25, 25-20, 25-23, 19-25, 15-13 state semifinal match to advance to their third straight state final against neighborhood rival Fort Loramie in Saturday’s Division IV state championship.

The Redskins took down Newark Catholic in the nightcap in four sets, 25-16, 27-25, 20-25, 26-24, to set up a rematch of last year’s regional semifinal that the Cardinals won.

“Our attitude is, it doesn’t matter who’s on the other side, we’re ready to go,” Kramer said. “We’ll be ready.”

New Bremen (27-1) has won the last five matches against the Redskins (27-2)

“Bring it on,” Claire Pape said of facing the Redskins with a state title on the line.

But Friday’s match was no walk in the park for the Cardinals, who had lost just two sets in their last five matches coming into Friday, but the Eagles took New Bremen to the fifth set after withstanding New Bremen’s 8-2 run in the fourth game.

Both teams opened the fifth set no more than two points apart and the Eagles led as late as 10-8 following a kill by Kelsie Palmer, but New Bremen stormed back thanks to a service error and a kill by Taylor Paul to tie the set at 10-10. The Cardinals eventually took a two-point lead on a kill by Macy Puthoff to break an 11-11 tie, followed by a kill from Ashton Heitkamp for a 13-11 lead — a lead the Cardinals would not relinquish the rest of the match — as part of a 6-2 run. Monroeville served with match point on the line, but the match ended on a setting error to give New Bremen the victory.

“We are almost mere images of each other,” Eagles coach Kendra Snook said. “If we played 10 times I’m sure we would go 5-5, but so far we have played twice and we have gone 0-2. It is two great teams playing and they made two less errors than we did.”

All-Ohio selection Macy Puthoff accounted for four kills and a block for the Cardinals during that fifth set as the senior finished the evening with 11 kills and five blocks.

“I struggled in the beginning but I play for my teammates, I play for my community and that means stepping up,” Puthoff said. “So making those plays late in the game, they helped me out and they are a big reason why I was able to step up.”

The Eagles led the opening set early 7-5, but the Cardinals went on a 5-0 run to take a 10-7 lead as the set was tied seven more times after that. Monroeville broke away, however, with back-to-back kills from Kylee Brooks for a 22-20 lead and eventually winning the set 25-22.

“We had almost every single one of our attackers back and everything is very similar in this match and we knew it was going to be a battle,” Kramer said. “It is remarkable that we made it through, but give Monroeville credit, they are a very good team.”

Runs of 4-0 and a pair of 3-0 advantages landed the Cardinals a second-set victory to tie the match, but at a cost. Josie Reinhart fought through a back injury that flared up over the summer and happened again in set 2, but the junior pushed on throughout the match. Once Kramer was told that what Reinhart was dealing with was not going to make it worse if she continued to play, Reinhart had the go-ahead.

“She looked at me in the eye and her teammate in the eye and said, ‘I need to go back out there.’” Kramer said. “I conferred with the trainer that she could not hurt worse and that was my main concern. If she was going to do something to hurt herself she wasn’t going to play, but she was confident with what she needed to do.”

New Bremen took a 2-1 set lead after coming out of a timeout trailing 19-16. Paul then took matters into her owns hands as she gained the serve back for New Bremen with her kill and opened up a 5-0 run to regain the lead 21-19 and finished the set out on a 9-4 run.

Paul led the Cardinals and the match with a season-high 23 kills to go along with 11 digs.

“She put her teammates on her back today,” Kramer said. “Every day somebody steps up and today was Taylor’s day to step up and big plays and put her team on her back and someone new may step up tomorrow.”

Thanks to a 15-7 lead as part of a 7-2 run and withstanding a pair of 4-0 runs by New Bremen, Monroeville was able to force a fifth set.

“We go into practice every day knowing that the team we are playing is really good and we can’t overlook teams and I think we struggled with that a little bit,” Puthoff said. “Monroeville is a really good team and they were when we played them last year so we knew to expect a lot of firepower from them.”

Pape led New Bremen with 43 assists, followed by Diana Heitkamp with 13 digs and Pape with 12. Ashton Heitkamp, Kaylee Freund each had four blocks.

The Cardinals will play Fort Loramie at 3 p.m. as they vie for a second state title in three years.

“Every timeout we talk about how everything that is in the past is in the past and something we need to do is continue to focus on the present because if you don’t focus on the present, your season is going to be over,” Kramer said.