By Rob Kiser
As Versailles volleyball seniors Payton Berger, Mallory Marshal, Kami McEldowney, Cassie Peters, Ellen Peters, Kate Stammen and Danielle Winner sat in the interview room at Wright State’s Nutter Center with the Division III volleyball state championship medals around their necks Saturday, they could only chuckle when asked if their state championship aspirations began in junior high.
“We really weren’t very good in junior high,” Ellen Peters said. “Really, we were bad. I think Coldwater beat us something like 25-5. I would have never expected anything like this.”
But, the seed may have well been planted in eighth grade when a historic moment took place — Versailles’ first state title in the sport.
“A lot of us had older sisters or girls we knew on that team,” Ellen Peters said. “To be able to end our careers the same way is amazing.”
Dig This: Eighteen different players recorded digs in what may well be a record with the two teams combining for 234 digs.
Versailles’ Kami McEldowney set a new D-III state tournament record (since 2004) with 38 digs in the match, one more than Coldwater’s Katie Alig.
McEldowney’s state tournament total of 65 came up one dig short of tying Miami East’s Allison Morrett’s record of 66, set in the 2011 tournament.
The 120 digs is a new record for a five-set match in D-III, breaking Newark Catholic’s record of 111.
The Lady Tigers tournament total of 205 is also a record, breaking Miami East’s mark of 192, set in 2011.
Big Swingers: Versailles middle Danielle Winner and rightside Elizabeth Ording combined for 46 kills on 135 attempts to spark the Lady Tigers offense.
Versailles finished with 116 kills.
The Lady Tigers 2013 team still has the D-III tournament record with 127.
Giving them an Assist: Ellen Peters came up just three assists short of the record for assists in a five-set match in D-III with 54 assists and her tournament total of 93 was just 11 short of the record.
Rachel Kremer, who played on Versailles’ 2013 state championship team — has the record for assists in a four-set match, 52 and the record for assists in a tournament, 104.
Coming Up Aces: One area where Versailles had an advantage Saturday was nine aces and just two service errors — while Coldwater had just two aces and seven service errors.
Kami McEldowney and Kate Stammen each had three, while Ellen Peters and Danielle McEldowney had one and Caitlin McEldowney had the big one — for the state championship winning point.
True Team: Versailles truly exempliefied “team” volleyball.
While many teams may have one or two girls plays all six rotations, Versailles used a 10-girl rotation all the way to a state title. That didn’t change Saturday. Even in the fifth set, 10 girls saw the floor.
Steppin’ In: With sophomore outside hitter Raegen Shaffer forced to set out the tournament with a concussion, Berger stepped in and didn’t miss a beat.
“It was a little intimidating at first,” Berger said. “But, I got more comfortable as the matches went on.”
Pair of Winners: Senior Danielle Winner and sophomore Lindsey Winner got to share the state championship moment. But, family is a common theme on this team with three McEldowneys and two Peters on the roster.
“It is amazing and special,” Lindsey Winner said. “I am really happy that I was able to get to experience this moment with my sister (Danielle Winner).”
She’s A Winner: The two combined for 33 kills and 10 blocks, leading to a familiar refrain from the Lady Tigers cheering section.
The cheer “She’s A Winner” will be ringing Coldwater’s ears for awhile.
Fast Start: In just two years as coach, Kenzie Bruggeman now has a record of 44-11, with two sectional titles, two district titles and a state championship.
“I am pretty happy right now,” Bruggeman said with a big smile when asked about her comments on Saturday’s match.
Dream Finish: Ellen Peters admitted it went through her mind after Versailles’ regular season loss to Coldwater.
“You hoped that was the way it would play out (getting another shot at Coldwater in the state championship match),” she said. “We felt like we didn’t play our best in that match. Our practices have been so different since then. To go out as state champions is just amazing.”
And brings a laugh when the seniors think back to their days playing junior high volleyball.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.