New Bremen blocks Calvert from state

ELIDA — Calvert tried just about everything to stop New Bremen and get its own offense going.

But the Cardinals simply blocked the Senecas out.

Out of their offense. Out of the regional final, and out of a chance to repeat as Division IV state champions.

Calvert controlled the first game, winning 25-19.

But after that, the Cardinals took over.

Using strong serving and dominant play from its block, the Cardinals won the next three games 25-21, 25-13, 25-16.

The win sends New Bremen to its third straight state tournament. It also avenged a five-set loss to Calvert in the state finals a year ago.

“Their block is what shut us down,” said Calvert coach Lori Rombach, whose team bowed out of the postseason with a 25-2 record. “Their block took Zoe (Meyer) and Ashlyn Jones out of our game from the front row. When you take Zoe and Ashlyn out of the game, it makes it difficult to beat a team.”

Jones finished with 13 kills and 12 digs, while Meyer was shut out almost entirely.

The serving of Diana Heitkamp proved problematic a number of times for the Calvert defense.

The New Bremen libero opened the second game serving, and ran off five straight points. After a kill from middle hitter Macy Puthoff, the Cardinal lead was up to 9-3.

Calvert spent the rest of the match trying to catch up, and nearly did. The Senecas went on a 7-3 run, crawling within 12-10 after a Cardinal attack error. Twice, Calvert trimmed the Cardinal advantage to a single point, but a kill and ace on consecutive points from Josie Reinhart bumped New Bremen’s lead back to 20-17. From there, the Cardinals finished off the game.

“When you’re playing a good team like this, it’s difficult to dig out of a 5-0 (deficit),” Rombach said. “When you’re playing a mediocre team, you can dig out of it.”

The deficit got even bigger in the third game. This time, Heitkamp served an ace on the first point, and New Bremen opened on a 6-0 run.

And this time, Calvert didn’t recover. It fell behind 9-2 and 13-4 after a Puthoff ace. The Senecas never challenged in the game, managing just 13 points.

Kramer said the starts of the second and third game helped key the Cardinals.

“In a game that’s all about momentum, it’s huge,” she said. “We know how good Tiffin Calvert is, and we also know that they’ve only lost three or four sets the entire year. So they may have never been in a stressful situation, because they’re that good. So, taking it to them and starting out strong was absolutely critical.”

Rombach said much of it came down to the block.

“Typically, our first rotation, when we’ve got Ashlyn on the outside and we have Zoe in the middle, we can convert on,” she said. “And today, we weren’t converting on it. Their block just wasn’t allowing us to get hits through We tried to set the back row a couple times to get the side out, wasn’t working.”

In the fourth game, the Cardinals took a quick 3-0 lead, and while Calvert closed to within 4-3 after a Hannah Miller kill, New Bremen never lost the lead, cruised to a win, and a trip to Fairborn.

Kramer said her team never lost focus.

“You can’t take a break. You can’t take one second off,” she said. “You have to stay focused on the present. Nothing in the past matters, nothing in the future matters. Only the specific point that we’re on.

“We got refocused, and every time that ball was in play, we talked about, ‘You’ve got to get to 17. Find a way…then 18,'” she said. “We were focused on the moment, and I could not be prouder right now.”

Pushed, again, by the blocking.

“Our blocking was really, really good tonight, and that saved us,” Kramer said. “Blocking is the first part of defense. People always forget about that; everybody thinks defense is passing, but defense is played above the net and below the net, and above the net, we played really, really good defense.”

Calvert looked to be at its best in Game 1. It grabbed a 4-1 lead on an Emma White ace, and went up 8-4 when Hannah Myers connected on a kill. A kill by Miller made it 16-12, and the Senecas never looked back, rolling to a six-point Game 1 win.

“I can’t wait to go back and watch the film,” Miller said. “I think we played loose, we played aggressive, and when mistakes start to compile, I think sometimes that can affect athletes, even great athletes.They did their best to try to shake things off and step up and restart, but when things start to compile, it gets heavy and it gets hard.”

Still, Rombach saw positives in the match.

Calvert’s AJ Hemminger finished with 23 digs, while Miller had nine kills and 13 digs. Katie Rombach delivered five kills.

AJ Hemminger, defensively, had a great game,” coach Rombach said. “She was digging the ball like crazy. I think Hannah Miller in the front row — that girl’s a freshman — she was swinging and attacking the ball, not looking like a freshman… she looked great. Katie Rombach rallied on the right side.”

But it wasn’t enough to get the Senecas back to Fairborn for the state tournament. New Bremen will face Monroeville in the state semis Friday afternoon.

“I mean, that’s a great team,” Rombach said. “I wish Diana and them luck as they continue.”

Calvert will look to regroup for next season. It will do it without five seniors: Meyer, Myers, Ashlee Shiley, Lila Gehring and Erin Wagner.

“I’m proud of this team,” Rombach said. “We’re in the elite eight, and there’s nothing for us to hang our heads over. We accomplished a lot, and we’re gonna miss our seniors dearly, but we have a lot coming back. We have to just have to mourn this loss, and then move on.”