By SCOTT COTTOS
DAYTON — All along the tournament trail, Zoe Meyer at times seemed to have a radar-like sense of where she could find an opponent’s shot and block it.
And when she made the final block of her junior season, it brought her and her Tiffin Calvert volleyball teammates their finest moment.
Meyer recorded her eighth block of the day on match point and the Senecas won the Division IV state title on Saturday with a 12-25, 25-20, 25-21, 22-25, 15-10 victory over defending champion New Bremen at Wright State University’s Ervin J. Nutter Center.
Calvert’s first state volleyball title came on its first trip to the state tournament.
“I can’t wrap my head around it,” said Senecas sophomore Ashlyn Jones, who matched Meyer and Lexie White with a team-high nine kills and helped pace the defense with 28 digs. “It’s crazy. It’s so crazy.”
“I don’t even have words right now,” Meyer said. “It’s just incredible. It makes all of our hard practices, all of our around-the-worlds and laps around the school and blitzing and suicides — it makes it all worth it. All the work that we’ve put in is paying off and it’s an incredible feeling.”
The state title concluded a 26-3 season for Calvert in its first season under coach Lori Rombach.
“I felt them start to believe and trust in me as the season went on,” she said. “And I didn’t know the juniors and the seniors very well. I coached the freshmen and the sophomores in their younger years. It took me time to learn their personalities, too.
“That definitely took time. It really did. But I can say to you, in the postseason it just started happening. All the parents who were asking, ‘Why isn’t my daughter playing?’ That’s always there, and that’s OK. If people aren’t questioning you, then there’s something wrong. But I felt like I was believing in the choices I was making, and that felt good.”
It certainly felt good, too, for the Senecas to form a dogpile in front of the net after Meyer recorded her final block to bring a win over team that was ranked No. 3 in the final state coaches poll. Calvert was ranked 13th.
“It didn’t even register to me (immediately),” Meyer said of the meaning of the block. “I’m like, ‘Oh, sweet, that’s a block.’ Then I’m like, ‘Wait, that’s the end of the game.’ Oh, my gosh. It’s so crazy.”
Rombach praised Meyer for her play on the spike by a New Bremen player.
“I think that was sheer grit, how you did it,” Rombach told her in the postmatch press conference. “I mean, it was far to your left. There was no way you should have gotten to that. It was just a reach and touch. … It was pure grit.”
The Cardinals (24-5) showed some grit of their own to get to a fifth set after dropping the second and third. But in the end, coach Diana Kramer felt the outcome was a matter of a few things not going her team’s way.
“There are three things you need to win a state championship,” she said. “You need talent, which we have. You need a belief, which we have. And you need luck. Did we have some lucky plays today? Sure. (Calvert) might have had a couple in key moments.”
Indeed, the Senecas had a few spots of good fortune, such as when freshman AJ Hemminger’s serve reception ricocheted directly back over the net and landed for a kill that made for a 9-8 lead in the second set.
But, by and large, Calvert was really good.
In the decisive fifth set, a Lila Gehring kill and an Emma White ace put the Senecas ahead to stay at 7-5. A Lexie White kill, a New Bremen error and a Meyer stuff block extended the count to 13-7 before Calvert finished off the match.
Things did not start well for the Senecas, who found themselves down 13-3 and 22-9 before the end of the first set.
“I just wanted the set to get over,” Rombach said. “I really wasn’t nervous at all. This is a big stage, it’s a big arena. I just wanted the girls to relax. I see every day how good they are when they’re loose and they’re aggressive. I see it every day. I just wanted them to settle down and then play. I just tried to keep my composure so I could give them that energy. I was hoping it would happen. But I was really just hoping the set would get over.”
Calvert trailed 17-13 in the second set. But Sydney Johnson served for two aces — one of which barely plopped onto the Cardinals’ side after hitting the netcord — Emma White added another ace and Kate Rombach notched a pair of kills to help bring the Senecas back to win the set.
“I just feel like that was the point in the game where we just started to relax and settle down,” Lori Rombach said. “I mean, there were some great digs from Shelby (Hemminger) and A.J. and Ashlyn. There were some amazing blocks from Zoe and Lila. … It just all started to happen.”
New Bremen led 17-16 in the third set before the Senecas charged back to win, with Gehring putting away a kill and a stuff block.
The Cardinals won the fourth set nearly wire to wire before Calvert finished off the match.
Kramer said the Senecas’ ability to ride continued success made the difference in the final set.
“I don’t know what the specific play was, but they gained a little momentum,” she said.
Emma White and Sophie Burtis finished with 16 and 15 assists, respectively, for Calvert, with White matching Johnson with three aces. Shelby Hemminger made 23 digs and Emma White had 21 to go with five blocks.
Taylor Paul stashed 15 kills and served for four aces, while Rachel Kremer finished with 12 kills, three aces, 21 digs and four blocks for New Bremen. Abbi Thieman handed out 28 assists and Madison Pape added 18. Blake Snider had 22 digs.
New Bremen (24-5)
ACES: Taylor Paul 4, Rachel Kremer 3, Macy Puthoff 2. KILLS: Paul 15, Kremer 12, Puthoff 8. ASSISTS: Abbi Thieman 28, Madison Pape 18, Puthoff 3. DIGS: Blake Snider 22, Kremer 21, Thieman 20. BLOCKS: Kremer 4, Ashton Heitkamp, Josie Reinhart & Claire Pape 2.
Tiffin Calvert (26-3)
ACES: Emma White & Sydney Johnson 3, Lexie White 1. KILLS: L. White, Ashlyn Jones & Zoe Meyer 9. ASSISTS: E. White 16, Sophie Burtis 15, Lila Gehring, Jones, Shelby Hemminger & Kate Rombach 2. DIGS: Jones 28, S. Hemminger 23, E. White 21. BLOCKS: Meyer 8, E. White 5, Gehring 4.