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Monroeville readies for state semifinal rematch

By JOSH MORGRET • Nov 6, 2019 at 4:30 PM

MONROEVILLE — Some coaches and players are afraid to use that "R" word.

You know, revenge.

Monroeville senior Kelsie Palmer was not about to shy away from expressing it in regards to New Bremen.

"We are definitely looking to get back at them," Palmer said. "They are a very good team and I know we will come in as the underdogs, but I feel like we are ready and better than ever."

The Eagles will get that opportunity on Friday. For the second year in a row, Monroeville will face the Cardinals out of the Midwest Athletic Conference — this time at 4 p.m. at the Nutter Center on the campus of Wright State University.

"Obviously, New Bremen is a very good team," Eagles' coach Kendra Snook said. " I think they are better this year than they were last year, but I think so are we. I think it sets up lots of emotions that you want to get revenge."

Both teams entered at 26-1 overall. The Cardinals were No. 2 in the final state coaches poll while Monroeville finished at No. 4.

"They also want to get revenge for a state title," said Snook of New Bremen losing to Tiffin Calvert in five games for the state championship last season. "I think it is going to be a competitive match both ways. It almost becomes like a rivalry just like the conference atmosphere.”

Last year, the Eagles sprinted out to a 2-0 lead only to fall. New Bremen won, 19-25, 23-25, 25-19, 25-20, 15-10.

"This time, I think there is going to be a different outcome because last year lit a fire under us," senior Adrian Barman said. "I think we know what to expect and most of the players are returning from last year."

Monroeville used balanced hitting in last year's semifinal. Kylee Brooks (12), Palmer (11), Graisyn Yoder (10), and Maura Brown (10) each had double-digit kills while Camryn Hedrick finished up a school-record setting season with 45 assists.

"I think the kids are more comfortable," Snook said. "Last year was a different group of kids. There were only two individuals that were even apart of that 2015 team. Last year was very exciting considering 13 of the kids were new to the experience. Now, we have the opposite situation where 12 are returning and going back again. I think they are a little more focused this year."

This year, New Bremen is led by a three-headed monster. Seniors Taylor Paul (248 kills), Macy Puthoff (240 kills, 103 blocks), and Josie Reinhardt (229 kills) have all had big years for coach Diana Kramer.

"It is difficult to defend that, but that is what makes our team difficult to defend, too," Snook said. "We have the multitude of good hitters. The advantage that both teams have is that they are used to practicing against good hitters. We have to defend our really good hitters in practice."

Junior Diana Heitkamp leads the Cardinals with 340 digs while junior Claire Pape is a first-year setter, but had racked up 856 assists.

Kramer has two state titles — 2011 at St. Henry and two seasons ago with New Bremen. She also took an undefeated St. Henry team into the 2015 state championship before falling to Gilmour Academy.

The Eagles have plenty of hitters on their end. Palmer leads the team with 277 kills and adds 122 digs, 57 blocks, and 39 aces for good measure.

Brooks has tallied 269 kills and 37 blocks while Yoder has come stronger in her sophomore year with 294 digs, 205 kills, 27 aces, and 21 blocks.

"Graisyn has made huge strides," Snook said. "Last year she was only a three-rotation player. We graduated three defensive players, so we depended on her and told her she was going to have to be a six-rotation player. Her ball control is great. I think she is ever going to continue to get better, which is awesome for us."

Brown (131 kills, 53 blocks) and Reece Kluding (99 kills) are also viable options for Hedrick to set to. Hedrick has registered 944 assists while adding 202 digs, 88 kills, and 62 blocks.

Barman has made the transition from one of the top hitters last season to the top defender for Monroeville. She has piled up 496 digs and adds 50 aces serving for the Eagles.

"We have not won too many five-game matches," Barman said. "After we beat St. Paul at districts, we know we can win five-game matches."

The Eagles swept their way through the regional round, topping both New Middletown Springfield and Dalton in three games.

"I feel like getting back to state is very special to us," Palmer said. "We are all very hard working and it is rewarding for us to be back in this position."

Both teams' lone losses have similarities. Monroeville lost in five games to St. Paul before avenging that loss in the district title match on Oct. 24. New Bremen fell to St. Henry at home on Sept. 12 in five games, but took down the poll champs in last week's regional semifinal at Elida in three games.

"Last year's loss to New Bremen has not been brought up a lot," Snook said. "We talk all year, but not necessarily in that specific. I think the big thing is that same situation happened in the district final and we did not lose that match. We came back and won that. I think that is a huge confidence builder for my kids."

The Cardinals have a 77-14 games won to games lost ratio. New Bremen is battled tested, having defeated Fort Recovery in five games on Oct. 8 before winning in five games at Coldwater two days later. The Cardinals also took down the defending state champion, Tiffin Calvert in the regional final in four games.

"I think a win on Friday would be huge," Snook said. "We are the only girls sport to have made it to the state tournament, but we have also never made it past the semifinals. There is a lot of people that we know that are going down and a lot of community members that will be down there cheering for the kids."

The night's second semifinal features Newark Catholic (19-6) against No. 5 Fort Loramie (26-2). The Division IV state championship is set for 3 p.m. Saturday.