Northeastern’s volleyball team developed a personality as the season wore on.
The Knights weren’t going to back down, weren’t going to hang their heads and were determined to turn around an eight-win season a year ago.
That determination bore out in a 25-win season and a trip to the Class 2A sectional final at Eastern Hancock. Senior Kerry Kicher was a critical part of Northeastern’s success, and coach Jerry Middleton was confident in it — even before the season started.
Kircher is the Palladium-Item’s 2012 Player of the Year, and Middleton is the Coach of the Year.
They faced strong competition for those awards from teams they know very well. Union County coach Chris Wiederhold guided the Patriots to the top of the Tri-Eastern Conference in his first season, while Lincoln’s Katina Nickels led her team to a 21-win season.
UC’s Carlea Handley and Isabella Pavey continued to provide their teams with steady presences on their court during their sophomore seasons, and the Lincoln duo of Haley Hall and Jordan Bryant broke school records during their junior campaigns.
No program shift was quite as dramatic as what happened in Fountain City, though.
Middleton even predicted 25 wins for his team before the season began.
“I put wins down (against teams) that people didn’t give us a chance to beat,” Middleton said. “It was a great year and the kids were fantastic and fought the whole way. Just a great bunch.”
Kircher was a game changer, an offensive force who other teams game planned around.
After the sectional final, Eastern Hancock coach Michael Eastes complimented Kircher after the championship match, saying his Royals were able to keep the Knights out of system.
“If they could have gotten Kerri involved, it could have been a different game,” Eastes said after that match.
Kircher had a team-high 387 kills for the Knights, and also paced her team with 78 solo blocks. The all-TEC selection also added 22 aces.
“I think one of her biggest strengths is the ability to run the One ball or the A ball, whatever you want to call it, and adjust to the set when she’s in the air,” Middleton said. “If she had to use her left hand, she can use her left hand.
“She would read the defense and hit the ball with authority.”
Middleton noted that while Kircher had a competitive attitude on the court, when she’d come off of it, she was quick to shake hands and encourage her teammates.
“It was a great year,” Kircher said. “We built our team as a family and everybody came together really well. That made it nice. We all came together and just supported each other.”
That support helped the Knights shake off last year’s 8-21 campaign to finish 25-9.
Northeastern reached the sectional final by dispatching Lincoln in a thrilling sectional semifinal. The Golden Eagles handed the Knights a loss earlier in the season.
“We had a good win against Lincoln and that was a great game against Lincoln,” Kircher said. “We played hard against Eastern Hancock.”
Added Middleton: “They developed a personality of “We’re going to play hard and see where the chips fall.’ It was just that confidence, that auru that they gave off. ‘We’ve been in worse spots. We can do this.’
“She (Kircher) was definitely a special player for us. All the seniors who are graduating, all of them were special players to the program and they put the program back on the map. I’m sure they’ll want to see it continue.”
To see the entire All-Area team, scroll through the photo gallery at the top of this page.
Honorable Mention selections
* Centerville: Sarah Stelle, Jordan VanWinkle
* Eaton: Alyson Hood
* Hagerstown: Hannah Todd, Ashley Dale
* Lincoln: Mackenzie McClain, Lindsey Weston
* National Trail: Tiffany Jordan
* Northeastern: Sarah Scotten
* Preble Shawnee: Kelsey Cottingim
* Randolph Southern: Maddi Kramer, Morgan Gibson
* Richmond: Kaitlyn Helms, Sommer Lewis, Brooklyn Taylor
* Seton Catholic: Maggie Lahmann, Abby Dargie
* Tri-County North: Megan Johnson, Kelly Schriever
* Twin Valley South: Gentry Gates
* Union: Lisa Rodriguez, Courtney Kinnaman, DeAnn Kauffman
* Union City: Kelsea Miller
* Union County: Allison McClurg
* Winchester: Chelsi Wall, Delaney Miller