Elder volleys for another trip to state

Elder volleys for another trip to state

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Elder volleys for another trip to state

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Elder High School has created and sustained a dominant volleyball program. The Panthers are the defending Division I state champions after beating St. Xavier in the state championship last season.

Since 2007, Elder has reached the state title match (and won three times) in all but two seasons. Elder has won five state championships in school history.

This year, the Panthers have a wealth of size and experience that will likely translate into another postseason run. Three starters return in seniors Ben Luebbe, Will Neiheisel and Kyle Ackerman. Luebbe, a 6-foot-5 middle hitter, has really developed and should be a force in the region, coach Sean Tierney said. Neiheisel’s 6-foot-3 and was primarily a backcourt defender last season, but Tierney said he should take on a more offensive role this year. Ackerman’s the anchor of Elder’s defense as the libero.

Senior Kevin Siemer, a 6-3 setter who can also play in the frontcourt and stands out as a blocker, earned some playing time last season, but this year he’s the primary setter and he’ll help out in a variety of ways. Some newcomers that will step into important roles are senior Matthew Olthaus, junior Jake Luebbe and Zach Korte.

“We’re a very deep team from top to bottom,” Tierney said. “It’s a very competitive atmosphere in practice. It’s great when you can create that atmosphere.”

The Panthers are deep and talented, but also aggressive.

“I like our overall aggressive nature; we’re bringing a lot of power to the court offensively and through the serving line,” said Tierney. “If we can balance that with consistency I think we’re gonna be a difficult team to handle.”

Elder’s off to a 4-0 this season with wins over Walsh Jesuit, Louisville Trinity, Louisville St. Xavier and McNicholas.

Tierney’s happy with the start but he would like to see his squad develop more of the mental aspect and trust in one another.

Last season, Oak Hills accomplished something no other team in school history had managed – a trip to the regional finals. The Highlanders lost to St. Xavier, the eventual state runner-up, in the regional final, but that success has bred confidence and a fervent desire to make another run. Tenth-year coach Chris Morman said his team is at work replacing three important seniors who graduated last spring.

Oak Hills returns three starters in senior outside hitter Tim Laib, senior middle hitter Eric Schneider and junior middle hitter Robbie Ramsey. Laib was a first-team selection in the Greater Miami Conference last season, and he led the entire GMC in kills (327).

“I like that we have a good nucleus back,” Morman said. “It’s exciting we got so far last year and I know the guys are hungry to get back there.”

Also playing key roles this year will be junior Owen Appiarius, who played last year in a variety of roles, and joining him will be senior setter Alec Krummen, sophomore Alex Anderson and junior libero Anthony Papathanas.

Morman said it’s exciting that the Highlanders have a fair amount of sophomores and juniors contributing this season, and a good-sized freshman class in the pipeline.

Having to play the GCL South is both a blessing and a curse every year. On one hand, Oak Hills gets a realistic view of the top competition, on the other hand, they have to find a way to win.

“We have the unfortunate curse of being in the region with the GCL South powerhouses,” Morman said. “It’s probably the strongest region in the state every year.”

Last season, Oak Hills made the goal of reaching the regional final. Now, they’d like to get back there and take it a step further.

Last year, Wes Post, now in his second season as the head volleyball coach at La Salle High School, was busy re-hauling the Lancers program. According to Post, it was his job to bring structure to a program lacking.

Now, he feels like they’re moving in the right direction. During last season’s overhaul, the Lancers were still competitive but only came away with seven wins. Post has three returning starters from that team, and just two seniors this year.

Returning as starters are senior William Frey, a two-year varsity player and a defensive specialist, and junior libero Joe Walden and sophomore outside hitter Will Goldschmidt.

“The good thing is we’re extremely young,” said Post. “We have five sophomores that play a pretty dominant role on our team.”

Some of those sophomores are Hayden Wood, Jake Kroger and Alex Williams.

The Lancers will be looking up at most opponents. They’re not the biggest team. Post said his biggest guy is junior Anthony Martini (6-foot-3) who’s a middle blocker in his second season playing.

“We are not the biggest team, so we have to play a completely different game than the big guys plays,” Post said. “It’s gonna be amazing to watch them as the season progresses. I don’t know if we’ll beat (Elder, St. X and Moeller) but they will fight and I think we can scare some people.”

La Salle started the season 4-1 with four straight wins over Sycamore, Monroe, Milford and Middletown before losing to Fairfield.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Elder senior Ben Luebbe: Has the skill and size (6-5) to be a force in the Southwest Region.

Oak Hills senior Tim Laib: A first-team Greater Miami Conference selection last season and led the GMC in kills (327).

Elder senior Kyle Ackerman: An anchor on the Panthers’ defense.

Oak Hills senior Eric Schneider: Experienced and looking to be more of a threat offensively this year.

Returning this season from Elder’s Division I state championship volleyball team were from left: Back, Jacob Luebbe, Matthew Olthaus, Kevin Siemer, Will Neiheisel and Ben Luebbe; and front, Zach Korte and Kyle Ackerman at practice April 1.

Returning this season from Elder’s Division I state championship volleyball team were from left: Back, Jacob Luebbe, Matthew Olthaus, Kevin Siemer, Will Neiheisel and Ben Luebbe; and front, Zach Korte and Kyle Ackerman at practice April 1.

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