Cardinals Outlast Eagles; Advance To State Finals

New Bremen's Blake Snider (foreground) and head coach Diana Kramer (background) both celebrate a victory in the fourth in of a Division IV state semifinal on Thursday.
Sports Editor

Experience is a valuable asset to have for any team, especially when a team is vying for a state title.

Finding themselves down two sets to none to open Thursday’s Division IV state semifinal against Monroeville, New Bremen rallied — just as they did in the district championship against St. Henry two weeks before — to win the final three sets, getting in system, relying on great defense and serving aggressive. Those aspects and that experience led to the Cardinals’ 19-25, 23-25, 25-19, 25-20, 15-10 victory at Wright State University’s Nutter Center.

Nerves, being out of system and making too many mistakes were all obstacles New Bremen overcame and for that it is awarded with a chance to win another state title on Saturday.

"My message this entire season has been, 'when no one believes in you, believe in yourself,'" Cardinals coach Diana Kramer said. "That dates back to last March and these girls are tough, they found a way.

"Last year, we were down 17-3 in a state semifinal and we trailed 0-2 in the district finals to the No. 1-ranked team in the state. We have been through really, really tough situations and we knew that if we remained calm and we started playing our volleyball, then maybe we could win this next set, then it's about winning the next set and winning the next set after that."

The Cardinals (24-4) now have a date with Tiffin Calvert (24-3) — who swept Portsmouth Clay (24-3) in the early game on Thursday — at 11 a.m. Saturday in a state final.

"I could not be more proud of these girls sitting with me today, these seniors," Kramer said as she sat with Abbie Thieman, Blake Snider, Rachel Kremer and Madison Pape at the post-game press conference. "These are my girls, they have been with me for the last three years — close to 1,000 days — and they are the heart and soul of this team. They kept their underclassmen calm, cool and collected."

The Cardinals endured 19 errors, a .011 hitting percentage at the net and deficits of 11-1 and 8-2 to open each of the first two sets, but the turning point of the game was the middle of the third set.

After a kill by Claire Pape to regain serve and taking a 9-8 lead, Thieman served the next five points — courtesy of kills by Taylor Paul, Kremer and Ashton Heitkamp to take a 13-9 lead — a lead the Cardinals never relinquished in that third set.

A kill by Macy Puthoff allowed to her to serve the next four points to push the New Bremen lead to 18-11. Monroeville never got closer than at four points, 20-16, as the Cardinals scored five of the next eight points to close the deficit to 2-1.

New Bremen jumped out to a 10-4 lead in the fourth set with kills by Paul, Heitkamp, Kremer and Josie Reinhart and three early service aces by Thieman, Paul and Madison Pape. That lead allowed the Cardinals to keep the Eagles at bay despite Monroeville cutting the advantage to 11-9 at one point as part of a 3-0 run. New Bremen scored eight of the set’s next 11 points to push its lead at 19-12, outlasting the Eagles the rest of the way to tie the match.

The Cardinals opened the fifth set leading 12-5, with five of New Bremen’s 12 points coming via Monroeville errors and two more coming from aces by Puthoff. The Eagles, however, cut the Cardinals’ lead down to three, 12-9, with four service points from Adrian Barman — prompting New Bremen to call a timeout. A kill by Reinhart followed to put the Cardinals two points within clinching for the state final as New Bremen finished the match on a kill by Pape and one final thunderous hit by Puthoff.

Monroeville opened the game with a quick 7-0 lead and 11-1 advantage overall in the opening set. Of the 11 points for the Eagles, five of them came from errors — four of them service errors — by the Cardinals who seemed out of sorts.

New Bremen eventually cut the deficit to four, trailing 19-15 and prompting an Eagles’ timeout as part of a 14-8 New Bremen run, however, four more Cardinals’ errors down the stretch pushed the Eagles to a first-set lead. That opening-set loss was the first the Cardinals suffered since losing two sets to St. Henry on that district final on Oct. 25.

Monroeville opened set No. 2 with an 8-2 advantage, but New Bremen rallied with a 13-7 run to tie the game at 15-15 as part of six ties in the second set. The Cardinals eventually took the lead at 18-16 and kept the set close at 25-23, but Monroeville grabbed the final two points on a handling error and kill by Barman to put New Bremen in the 2-0 set hole.
Then the rest was history.

Paul led the Cardinals with 14 kills, followed by 12 from Kremer as they push through the Eagles’ tough front net, which accumulated 11 blocks to New Bremen’s eight. Thieman collected 23 assists and Madison Pape recorded 22. Blake Snider finished with 20 digs.