KETTERING – The Versailles volleyball team is just one win away from reaching the state final four as the Tigers beat Johnstown-Monroe 25-20, 19-25, 25-21, 25-6 on Thursday at Trent Arena in Kettering.
The regional semifinal against Johnstown-Monroe was by far the toughest match Versailles has had thus far in the Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament. The tougher opponent combined with some errors by the Tigers kept the scores tight most of the night.
“I just thought we had so many errors that we hadn’t had in any of the other games and we were able to make runs more easily (in other matches),” Versailles coach Kenzie Bruggeman said. “And that’s what I told the girls, too. It’s hard to make those chunk runs when we have a missed serve or we hit the ball out of bounds. We definitely had a lot more of those errors tonight, which is why I thought it was more difficult for us, but definitely kudos to Johnstown-Monroe. They put the ball away. They had a lot of good players on that side as well. So it wasn’t just on us. We had good competition on the other side.”
It was evident from the beginning of the opening set that Versailles was going to be in a battle with Johnstown-Monroe as there were eight ties in the first game. But from a 16-16 tie, the Tigers went on a 9-4 run to win the opening set 25-20.
While the Tigers were able to pull out the win, Bruggeman said the Versailles offense wasn’t clicking right in the first set.
“I felt that we were a little scattered, especially on defense and serve receive,” she said. “And we know that. We know that when we’re not having the best serve-receive game that we’re not able to get our offense going.”
In the next game, Versailles had to play from behind the entire time. Johnstown-Monroe jumped out to a 3-0 run and led the rest of the way. Versailles pulled within three points at 17-14, prompting the Johnnies to use a timeout, but the Tigers couldn’t get any closer as Johnstown-Monroe won the game 25-19 to even the match at 1-1.
The loss in the second set was the first for Versailles this tournament season, but Bruggeman wasn’t too concerned.
“As long as they respond and learn from it I’m OK with that,” she said.
Versailles did seem to learn from the second set as the Tigers began the third game on a 3-0 run. Versailles then pulled away further and led by as many as seven points in the game.
Johnstown-Monroe was able to make it close, reducing Versailles’ lead to a single point at 21-20, but the Tigers hung on for the win and went up two games to one.
“Those first two games we just didn’t make runs at all,” Bruggeman said. “So once we were even, just to get a run of three can help in the long run of having that gap when we do get to the 20s.”
In the fourth set it was complete domination for Versailles. Versailles scored seven of the first eight points, including the first three, to build a big lead. This time Johnstown-Monroe didn’t recover, and Versailles went on to win 25-6 and claim the regional semifinal victory.
“I very much so put that on the shoulders of Danielle Winner,” Bruggeman said. “At the end of the third game she was getting ready to rotate in, and I said, ‘We need your leadership. Get out there and put the ball away.’ And I think she had the last two kills of the third game and then ended up having at least five within the first bit of the fourth game. So she was ready to turn it on and definitely put on her leadership.”
Versailles now advances to the regional finals of the OHSAA tournament. The Tigers will play Miami East, who swept Anna 25-14, 25-15, 26-19, at 2 p.m. Saturday at Trent Arena at Fairmont High School. The winner of Saturday’s match will advance to next week’s state final four at Wright State University.
This will be the seventh consecutive season that either Versailles or Miami East will represent Southwest Ohio in the state final four.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.