Congratulations to Jackson Center for repeating as state champions in volleyball; and to Miami East who came through to claim its third title in six years over the weekend.
It cannot be stated enough…that sometimes the championship that means the most is the one that’s shared the most intimately.
And that’s how titles like volleyball, cross country, and hockey are most often appreciated, because those sports do not get the media attention and the recognition of more publicized events like football and basketball.
And one can make that very case for the past weekend when the Jackson Center Tigers, under coach Kim Metz, from the Shelby County League, won their second consecutive Division IV title in Volleyball, in four games over Tuscarawas Central Catholic.
And, Miami East, from the Cross County Conference, coached by Dan Peterson, won the Division III title, its third in six years, with a five-game triumph over Tuscarawas Valley.
Volleyball, of course, doesn’t get the attention in the fall that high school football does. It’s not a part of the state’s culture like football is, as Woody Hayes once famously claimed. Once when Hayes used to roam the dormitory halls in the evenings to make sure his football players were in their rooms studying, Brooks Manning, a sophomore from Bucyrus, stuck out his hand to Hayes and said, “I’m from Bucyrus, Coach. We play football there, too.”
“Hell yes, you play football,” bellowed Hayes. “What else can you do in Bucyrus?”
Those were the days before Volleyball became an OHSAA championship sport, of course. And in this day, there is a lot more than football being played at Bucyrus, and the other 820 member schools across Ohio.
Which makes it all the more impressive to win a title in anything.
Volleyball, one can make the case, is a sport that few people really understand…outside of the fact that if the ball hits the court, or goes out of bounds, it’s a bad thing. It’s a game of far more complexity than most appreciate – offense, defense, and strategy. The term “libero” usually brings a blank stare in comparison to mention of a “middle linebacker”, but coaches like Metz, Peterson, and former Vikings’ coach John Cash (not the singer) have dedicated their lives to profiling and marketing their sport.
“It’s a sport that our girls have grown up playing together,” said Metz earlier in the fall. “It is a sport that requires quick reflexes and mental decision making. And our girls are smart…honor students. They figure out a lot of things on their own during the games. It’s a joy to coach and be around them because they’re leaders on the court and in the classroom.”
And Cash, who won titles at Miami East on back-to-back years in 2011 and ’12, says, “Volleyball really requires many of the same athletic skills as basketball, just different execution.”
It is a game of momentum, of course, like the other sports. And physical advantage. Size, and speed, matters. Metz and former Marion Local coach Amy Steininger have won with size. Lehman coach Greg Snipes has won multiple titles with speed and defense.
Jackson Center caps a perfect season with its win over TCC, the second year in a row the two teams had met for the title.
“This one was more emotional,” admitted senior Cassie Meyer.
Miami East was led by juniors Jonni Parker and Kyndal Hellyer, team that graduates by five seniors and the early favorite to compete again for the 2017 title.
“This is a little bitter-sweet,” said Jackson’s Metz of her senior-dominated team back in September. “We don’t know how this will turn out, but when it’s over it’s going to be like losing your family. We’ve been together since these girls were in the fifth grade.”
Ah, but no one would think of trading time for a title because time slips away, and fades from memory.
Champions, on the other hand, are for life and cannot be overlooked.
Congrats…to the Tigers and the Vikings. State champions for 2016, and forever.