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State Volleyball Tournament - Final Four Picks
The teams in each division are ranked in order from 1 to 4, without regard as to what round they meet. Records are in parentheses. For comparison purposes, team rankings in the first and final Website Rankings, and the final official Coaches Poll, are also provided.
Mentor (21-7) vs. Cincinnati Ursuline (24-3)
Toledo St. Ursula (25-2) vs. Cincinnati St. Ursula (26-1)
Final Four Picks: Cin. St. Ursula (1), Cin. Ursuline (2), Tol. St. Ursula (3), Mentor (4)
Website (First): Cin. Ursuline (1), Cin. St. Ursula (2), Tol. St. Ursula (4), Mentor (10)
Website (Final): Cin. St. Ursula (1), Cin. Ursuline (2), Tol. St. Ursula (3), Mentor (19)
Coaches Poll (Final): Cin. St. Ursula (1), Cin. Ursuline (2), Tol. St. Ursula (3), Mentor (18)
Three of last year's four finalists return with Mentor the only newcomer. Mentor's last appearance was in 1998 when they were runnerup to Mount Notre Dame. They also got to state in 1989 and 1990. Toledo St. Ursula made their debut at the Nutter in 2000 and is back for the third straight year.
Ursuline won their first two appearances in 1975 and 1993. They have been back six times since, finishing second in 1995 and last year. Cincinnati St. Ursula is back for the tenth time and is trying for a record eighth title. They won six straight in Division II from 1993-1998, and then won Division I last year. St. Ursula is currently tied with Newark Catholic for most titles.
Cincinnati St. Ursula is considered a slight favorite over Ursuline. Toledo St. Ursula has an outside chance, but would have to beat both Cincinnati schools, assuming Ursuline wins in the first round. Mentor appears to be outclassed, but we picked them fourth in the regional and they won that.
Cincinnati St. Ursula is led by All-American setter Bryn Kehoe, who is also one of the better high school passers around. The Bulldogs have lots of hitting with the likes of Beth Gillming, Beth Shelton, Rachel Yauss and Maggie Schmelzle. The left handed Yauss also sets.
Ursuline is just as solid with a top notch setter in Kelly Byrnes, hitters Carli Reihman, Jenna Staun, Erin Kanetzke and All-American Stephanie Blackburn. Toledo St. Ursula is led by hitting sensation Sarah Florian who is the lone returning starter. The Arrows have a lot of talent to support her, including sophomore setter Allison Mugler, and hitters Kelsey Hills, Coleen Slattery and Brittany Fox. Mentor is led by 6'6" blocker/hitter Megan Skouby.
Last year Toledo St. Ursula was the favorite going into the Final Four, having beaten GGCL champ Ursuline earlier in the season. St. Ursula had a lot of new starters. This time Cincinnati St. Ursula is the GGCL champ, and with an early win over Toledo, they are the favorite. Toledo SUA has the new team with only one starter back.
So this could play into an interesting reversal of roles. Toledo could beat Cincinnati like Ursuline beat the Arrows last year. Or Ursuline and Cincinnati SUA could meet again in the final with Ursuline winning this time. And Mentor can play the role of spoiler like Austintown-Fitch almost did last year when they took St. Ursula (Cin.) to three in the semifinal.
Think those things can't happen? St. Ursula has beaten Ursuline twice this year, its true, but Ursuline beat St. Ursula twice last year. In fact, the Lions beat St. Ursula five games in a row before the Bulldogs took the last two and the State Title. This year the scores were 6-15, 15-6, 20-18 and 13-15, 15-12, 15-11. And we have noted before that GGCL runnerups have won four state titles in the past seven years.
Toledo SUA has lost to both St. Ursula and Ursuline, by scores of 13-15, 12-15 and 16-14, 1-15, 5-15, respectively. With scores like these, all we can do is go with the favorites and hope for the best. Of course, we can also hope for more scores like these, no matter who wins.
As for Mentor, the last time they got to state, the Cardinals knocked off the favored defending champion Mansfield Madison. Last year Austintown-Fitch came out of the northeast and many thought they wouldn't give St. Ursula much trouble, but they did.
Archbishop Alter (23-3) vs. Norwalk (21-6)
Lake Catholic (26-1) vs. West Holmes (28-0)
Final Four Picks: Archbishop Alter (1), Lake Catholic (2), West Holmes (3), Norwalk (4)
Website (First): Archbishop Alter (2), Lake Catholic (3), West Holmes (4), Norwalk (Other)
Website (Final): Archbishop Alter (2), Lake Catholic (5), West Holmes (4), Norwalk (24)
Coaches Poll (Final): Archbishop Alter (4), Lake Catholic (5), West Holmes (3), Norwalk (N/R)
West Holmes and Lake Catholic return from last year's tournament. West Holmes' only other appearance was in 1999. Norwalk's last and only appearance was in 1993, when they lost a close first round match to Cincinnati St. Ursula. Kettering Alter is the new kid on the block, as this is their first appearance. So between them, the four schools have only been to State a total of four times.
Alter is a fairly heavy favorite despite being in unfamiliar surroundings. The Knights have had an outstanding volleyball program for some time, and their failure to get to State before has more to do with geography. They are in the Southwest Region, and for nine years Cincinnati St. Ursula and then Roger Bacon have ruled. The Knights took matters into their own hands last weekend and ended that.
Lake Catholic and West Holmes is extremely close, with Lake Catholic getting the nod based on their win over Hubbard. Norwalk is on a tear, but three game wins over Celina and Eastwood do not match up to beating Roger Bacon.
Alter is led by setter Ali Hausfeld and hitter Carrie DeMange, both juniors. These two started as freshmen. Other players to watch are hitters Jenna Miller and Lindsey Woeste and defensive specialist Amy Wetterau.
Norwalk's leading players are hitter/blockers Victoria Kasten, Tiffany Mulder, and Leah Wilson. All three made the All-Northern Ohio League Team.
Lake Catholic has one of the top players in the state in outside hitter Jessica Sabath, who is even better in the back row at digging and passing. Before the season started a web posting claimed she was already good enough to play at the college level as a defensive specialist. Her digging is a major reason the Cougars were able to survive Hubbard's hitting onslaught in the regional. The Cougar's are also led by setter Alex Shinhearl, middle hitter Jamie Matthies, and outside hitter Vaiva Laniavskas.
West Holmes' top players are outside hitter Lindsey Piar, middle hitter Tristen Dye and setter Morgan McDowell. Piar and Dye also star on West Holmes' basketball team. Dye was a gymnast before she found volleyball, and her acrobatics on the floor reflect that.
Alter's three losses should not give opponents any comfort as they are to Roger Bacon, Ursuline and Vandalia-Butler. Alter has beaten Marion Local, Sidney Lehman, Roger Bacon twice, and they clobbered Ben Logan in the District. They were nationally ranked pre-season, and were second in the website rankings all year.
Norwalk, Alter's semifinal opponent, has had a truly amazing season. The Truckers started 7-6, with losses to quality opponents. They have won 14 straight since then, many over more quality teams. They have won more than their share of nail biting three game matches, including a third game 18-16 win over Celina in the Regional semifinal. On paper they appear to be no match for Alter. Their hope is to somehow keep the match tight. Then, when it gets close to match point, they will be in their element, and anything could happen.
West Holmes and Lake Catholic both lost in the first round last year. This time they play each other, so one is guaranteed to get to the final. That is nice, because both have some talented athletes who are fun to watch. Neither team has an abundance of height, but both have their key players back from last year. While neither team has played tough schedules like Alter or Norwalk, both have some good wins.
Lake Catholic has beaten Magnificat, who almost upset Toledo St. Ursula in the regional final. The Cougars lost to Walsh Jesuit early, but avenged that. In the regional they knocked off undefeated Hubbard, then beat Rocky River. West Holmes has beaten Tuscarawas Valley, Boardman and Kidron Christian. In the regional they beat Tallmadge and Canal Fulton Northwest, and they clobbered Claymont in the district. This semifinal should be a great match.
Huron (25-2) vs. Tuscarawas Valley (26-1)
Sidney Lehman (22-6) vs. Girard (25-3)
Final Four Picks: Huron (1), Sidney Lehman (2), Tuscarawas Valley (3), Girard (4)
Website First: Huron (1), Sidney Lehman (4), Tuscarawas Valley (10), Girard (Other)
Website Final: Huron (1), Sidney Lehman (4), Tuscarawas Valley (3), Girard (15)
Coaches Poll (Final): Huron (2), Sidney Lehman (7), Tuscarawas Valley (4), Girard (8)
Huron and Tuscarawas Valley are back from last year, when Huron lost to Villa Angela-St. Joseph in the semifinal, and Tusky Valley lost to VASJ in the final. This time they start off with each other. Huron is making their fourth trip to State in the last five years. Tusky Valley has also made trips in 1997, 1998 and 2000. Sidney Lehman won the State with a perfect 30-0 record, and this is their fifth time at State. Girard is making its first appearance.
Huron is the favorite, but Sidney Lehman should provide a strong challenge. Tusky Valley and Girard could also present problems. Last year it seemed like the Northwest and Southwest region winners were stronger, but the Northeast and Southeast ended up in the final.
Middle hitter Sarah Wilber is one of the top spikers in the state and she leads Huron's attack. Megan Borgelt handles the setting, and hitters Ashley Cundiff and Amanda Fox add offensive clout. Fox is also an excellent backrow player.
Sidney Lehman has two big hitters in Ashley Newcomer and Emily Hodges, and a solid setter in Adrienne Payawal. Tuscarawas Valley is led by middle hitter Kira Redinger and, based on last year's roster, setter Audra McCoury.
Girard's top player is First-Team All-State middle hitter Tealle Hunkus. They have two setters, Nicole Melfi and Erin Stevens. Middle hitter Kristen Ragozine and outside hitters Janeen Delgenio and Courtney Madden round out the starting lineup. Madden, a freshman, is playing for Stephanie Scarnecchia who is out with an ACL injury.
Huron has their entire starting lineup back from last year. They looked sharp in districts beating strong Margaretta and Wynford teams. They won both Regional matches in two over Genoa and Fredericktown. To put those wins in perspective, Eastwood, the second place team in Genoa's league, knocked off Canal Winchester last weekend, then gave Norwalk trouble. Fredericktown's only losses to date had been to Centerburg (twice) and Ben Logan in a squeaker.
Sidney Lehman has six losses, all to powerful teams, three to State qualifiers. They romped in the Districts, and looked very sharp in regional wins over Versailles and Jonathan Alder.
Tusky Valley beat Coshocton in the regional final, a team that had just upset Frankfort Adena. In the semifinal, Tusky beat Westfall, by the same 15-10, 15-10 margin that Lehman beat Versailles. Tusky only has one loss, but they were beaten decisively by West Holmes.
Girard has lost twice to Hubbard, but played them closer than most other teams. Girard also split matches with Lakeview. In the regional final, they rallied from 4-12 in game three to beat Lutheran West 15-5, 13-15, 15-12. Girard routed Streetsboro in the semifinal, and won their district matches fairly handily.
Centerburg (26-1) vs. Marion Local (25-2)
Norwalk St. Paul (27-0) vs. Old Fort (24-3)
Final Four Picks: Norwalk St. Paul (1), Marion Local (2), Centerburg (3), Old Fort (4)
Website First: Norwalk St. Paul (2), Marion Local (1), Centerburg (3), Old Fort (5)
Website Final: Norwalk St. Paul (1), Marion Local (3), Centerburg (4), Old Fort (6)
Coaches Poll (Final): Norwalk St. Paul (1), Marion Local (2), Centerburg (3), Old Fort (5)
Both Norwalk St. Paul and Old Fort are newcomers to the state tournament. Centerburg is making their third straight appearance. They were State Runnerup in 2000, and in their first visit in 1991. Marion Local's only other trip to the State was in 2000.
Both Norwalk St. Paul and Marion Local have strong senior laden teams with great setting and lots of hitting. St. Paul is a slight favorite over Marion Local, but Marion has played a tough schedule and that could give them an edge. Both teams have to get through the semifinal first.
Centerburg has a shot, but they do not appear to be quite as strong as last year, and they will have to contend with two big middle hitters when they play Marion. And based on results to date it is difficult to see how Old Fort can match up with St. Paul or Marion.
St. Paul is led by middle hitter Jordan Centers and setter Angie Camp. Outside hitters Annie Bockrath, Kristen Playko and Megan Centers augment the offense. St. Paul is strong defensively and their offense is supported by superior passing of back row players like Kim Stoll.
Marion Local has two big middle hitters, Ashley Langenkamp and Margo Moeller, both of whom are also outstanding blockers. Diane Bruns provides solid setting. Add talent like Erin Puthoff, Marianne Wuebker and Carrie Thobe into the mix and you have the entire starting lineup. They are a formidable group.
Centerburg lost one of their big hitters from last year, but junior Ami Stevens is back, along with setter/hitter Rachel Stevens (they are cousins).
Old Fort is led by middle hitter/blocker Liz Goodman, hitter Breena McCool, and setter Brittany Molyet. Sophomore Kara Kohlenberg provides additional firepower.
St. Paul has looked awesome in going undefeated, beating teams like Amherst, Fremont Ross, Clyde and Clay convincingly. They also beat Huron 16-14, 15-6.
However, Marion Local has played the stronger overall schedule. They scored 19 points in a two game loss to Kettering Alter, and they lost the league championship match to St. Henry, a loss they avenged in the District Semifinal. They have beaten Minster, Fort Loramie (twice), and Sidney Lehman (twice).
Centerburg beat Fredericktown twice this year, and looked very good in beating Watterson and Big Walnut the last week of the season. They lost a close two game match to Jonathan Alder early in the season.
By getting to the Final Four Old Fort proved that their league is not just Hopewell-Loudon. On the other hand, Old Fort is not Hopewell-Loudon. Their losses losses are to Margaretta, Genoa, and St. Henry. Those are quality opponents, but by comparison, seven of Huron's wins are over Margaretta and Genoa, and St. Paul beat Huron.