Former state champs Loramie and coach John Rodgers are working hard, fixing the little things…a win at a time for now, and whatever comes later.
Fort Loramie – It was a ragged volleyball match in a league known for champions – the last three Division IV state champions have all been Shelby County League teams – and highly competitive play.
As a conference…they don’t play football in the SCL, so there’s heightened significance on good volleyball.
But it wasn’t particularly good volleyball Tuesday when Botkins (2-2) came to Loramie (3-3). The first game was contested in a 26-24 Loramie win. The second was a blowout…25-5, Loramie. And while the third was closer (25-16, Loramie), it wasn’t something either coach, John Rodgers at Loramie, or Bryan Trego at Botkins, would put in the category of being classic.
It is still early, for sure, and neither team could lean on its experience. Botkins only has four seniors; and Loramie is playing girls who haven’t seen enough varsity action to date, and some who are playing new positions.
And apparently it was early for the officials, as well, as the game was stopped four times just to get the lineups corrected on the court. All in all, it was disorganized looking, and frustrating – the play and the officiating.
“But, a win is a win,” said Rodgers afterwards, with a smile. “Tonight was ugly, but here’s the scoop on our team. We have so much inexperience on the floor when we play a great team it’s brand new to them. When we play a team that’s riddled with injuries and not up to their standard, that’s also brand new. So we’re learning how to handle each different situation as it comes, including things that are out of our control.”
Coaches will tell you that they hate to win ‘ugly’, because it leads to bad habits and a lack of precision with execution. Tuesday’s was a mistake-laden game by both teams, but the constant stoppage of play to assess lineups was a distraction in the category of being – as Rodgers put it – out of anyone’s control.
“It was frustrating, yes. And it angered me,” he added. “But it’s something you just have to get past and focus on playing. We try to handle the situation and I thought from time to time we actually did a good job of handling situations tonight…but we just never got into any kind of rhythm. To me, that was the worst thing about our performance tonight – we just couldn’t get into any kind of rhythm, and yes, the officiating was part of it.
Inexperienced as Rodgers’ young ‘Skins are, there were some noticeable individual performances, despite the distractions.
Morgan Holscher, a senior middle hitter, had eight kills and three serving aces.
Senior Sophia Albers had 24 assists for the match.
Marissa Meiring, a sophomore, added twelve kills of her own.
And freshman McKenzie Hoelscher, chipped in nine kills of her own.
“There were distractions tonight,” said Morgan Holscher, whose game has benefited greatly by an off-season of hard work in “JO” volleyball and individual attention to weaknesses. “But luckily we were able to come together every time, regroup, and keep playing like we’re supposed to.
Holscher’s contribution has been a welcomed addition from her new, and different role as a middle hitter.
“I played “JO” (Junior Olympic) over in Decatur, Indiana, and worked really hard at home on my own. It was a lot of travel and work but it’s definitely helped me improve my game and become a better player.”
Which in the short term, John Rodgers and the Redskins will welcome as they work their way back towards state tournament contention. They won the Division IV championship in 2014.
“Yeah, short term we just want to win as many games as we can,” says Rodgers. “We play an incredibly tough schedule because the volleyball in this area is so good. We play Versailles for a second time coming up, we’ll be playing Ottawa-Glandorf, Marion Local, and New Bremen; and our league’s very tough.
“So short term we want to get better every single day. We want to improve on the little things that make a big difference as the season progresses. Establish some goals and achieve them. And long-term, if we can get to the regionals we’ll see what happens. That’s always the goal in volleyball – get to the ‘Sweet Sixteen’, because all bets are off and everyone has to deal with that pressure.”
So a win is a win, pretty or not, as Rodgers smiled over the performance of Morgan Holscher (one of his few experienced players that returns), as well as the contribution of a freshman like McKenzie Hoelscher (no relation), who played Tuesday beyond her years.
The biggest question in Tuesday’s match, for either team…was who was supposed to be playin’?
As to the outcome…it was never in question.