Senecas riding 12-set win streak

PHOTO BY STEVE WILLIAMS Calvert’s Ashlyn Jones rips a shot past two Ayersville defenders Nov. 1 at Elida in a Division IV regional semifinal match.

It’s hard to lose a match when you don’t lose a game.

Calvert comes into today’s Division IV state semifinal match with Portsmouth Clay on a roll.

The Senecas have won five straight postseason matches to make its first state appearance. Four of those wins were sweeps, including the last three matches.

The Senecas enter today’s noon match on a 12-game winning streak. And this is when the matches are supposed to be the toughest.

So what is going on?

“I think it’s a combination of momentum, and we have so much passion,” said Calvert middle hitter Zoe Meyer. “Every single person on our team has such a huge passion to just win, and everyone on this team loves volleyball. We are so in for the goal. We want this so bad.”

Libero Shelby Hemminger said that the Senecas know the importance of getting off to good starts. But the streak doesn’t mean the team hasn’t faced some adversity along the way.

“I think the first set, it’s important. If you win the first set, you get the first momentum,” she said. “But our team, throughout the tournaments have (done) a good job of coming back. (Against) Leipsic (in the regional final) we were down 6-1, but we didn’t give up. We fought back and worked hard to win that first set. So, even if things do go wrong in the first set of the next set of the next game, I know the second set we’ll come back ready to play. That’s not stopping us. We will come back with more momentum.”

The lone game Calvert lost in the postseason came against Old Fort in the district semifinal in Fostoria. The Stockaders took Game 1, 25-19.

“Old Fort was kind of like an awakening that we knew we needed to come out stronger,” said Sophie Burtis, a setter. “We came out and had a good game toward the end. But at the beginning we felt like we were a little nervous. But we’ve been emphasizing confidence over cockiness. We are going to be strong, come out as a unit and we are going to keep battling.”

That’s what happened against the Stockaders. The Senecas took control and won the next three games, with none of them being especially close.

” I just think the mental lapses haven’t been there as much because all 15 of us, we are 15 strong and we know our bench behind us,” Burtis said. “We need to fight for each other out there and finish strong.”

Outside hitter Lexie White said the recent success is due to the team concept.

“The 12-set streak I feel like all of us are coming together, grinding out every single practice and playing volleyball,” she said.

Coach Lori Rombach said she knows — and the players know — that state will provide some challenges. The key is dealing with the adversity that is bound to occur.

“I do feel like we’ve been in control of all the matches of late,” she said. “These girls don’t panic. Some of them like the challenge of trying to dig us out of a hole.

“The 12-set match streak doesn’t really translate into my mind,” she said. “We have been playing our best in the past few weeks, but I feel like we even have more to give coming up, I really do. If that results in a three-set win, that’s glorious. But if we are down 2-0, do not count us out. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that we wouldn’t be able to climb out of that. They are fighters.”

White acknowledged there are some nerves about Fairborn.

“Right now probably the team is feeling a bit of nerves because we have some young girls that are probably nervous,” she said. “Me being a senior, I’ve been to a ton of volleyball games and I’m even going to be a bit nervous, but we have to put that behind us and move forward.”

And Meyer said there’s no reason to change the team’s mindset now.

“I think we need to keep trusting in our coaches, trusting in our teammates, trusting in ourselves,” she said. “Continue playing loose and aggressive. Just keep doing what we’ve been doing. What we’ve been doing has been working, obviously, so we have to keep rolling with that.”

And that means plenty of confidence.

“We’re so happy to be here, but we want to go even farther,” White said. “State is such an honor to be there, but we know if we play our game and we keep fighting and working hard that we can do it.”

Assistant Sports Editor Matt Nye contributed to this report.