BREMEN - The postseason is a new season and the Bremen volleyball team took advantage of it Thursday night.
Based on records alone, the Lady Lions were heavy underdogs, yet defeated Westville in straights sets in the Class 2A sectional opener.
“I’ve told the girls, ‘It’s not about the record.’ Keep your eyes set on October,” said Bremen head coach Justin Cochran. “That’s when it really matters. That’s when we’ll play schools our size.”
Bremen came in with a modest 4-15 mark compared to the Blackhawks’ impressive 17-11 ledger, but the competition played to produce those records was much different. Playing the likes of Class 4A No. 18 Penn, and Class 3A heavyweights New Prairie (No. 19), SB St. Joseph No. 20, and Glenn (21-6) twice, toughened the Lady Lions’ resolve and it showed in the playoff opener.
“We’ve been working really hard,” added Cochran. “When I told them they could be the first team to win sectionals in 16 years, it has been a big drive all season. It’s a cool thing to play for something bigger than themselves.
“We had one common opponent (Bremen def. Knox, WV lost to them) and that gave me a practical amount of hope and knowing the competition we’ve played.”
The Lady Lions found themselves down 15-13 in the first set, but a 9-2 run led by two kills from Lydia Stamm led to a 25-20 win.
“She is the Iceman - or Icewoman,” Cochran said of the junior hitter. “She just goes. I never have to worry about her being too high or too low. She’s our biggest hitter and she’ll take the big swings. She stays so even keel and that carries our team.”
Bailey Vermillion’s three aces in the first four points of set two, followed shortly by 12 service points from freshman Isabella Smith shot Bremen out to a 16-1 lead that increased to 21-2 soon after and ended with a decisive 25-10 victory. Senior Maja Heinze played a big part in the game as well, with two blocks, a kill and a tip winner.
“If you can jump on a team early, you deflate them a little bit,” added Cochran. “When they called a timeout at 4-0, I thought we just need to get the ball in the court the rest of the game.
“Our middles (Smith, Heinze) have really developed the last couple of weeks and we needed that. Just all of a sudden, out of nowhere, (Smith and Heinze) decided to hit a little more. If you only have one hitter taking all of the swings, you are in trouble. We are able to spread our offense around now.
“I don’t know where we’d be without (Vermillion). She is our fire. As a senior, she has helped me push the other players along. She has a nose for the ball.”
Set three was close early, but an 8-2 spurt behind great overall net play gave the Lady Lions the gap they needed and eventually took the deciding game, 25-19. Lauren Miller spread the ball around at will as the team pounded nine of its 19 kills in the final game.
“She is a smooth operator,” said Cochran of the junior setter. “She is so inspiring to the rest of the team. Her teammates feed off her confidence. She blocks well, sets well, and plays defense. She embodies the term ‘Captain’. She works hard.
“We’ve been working on our net play because we have struggled there. When you play those big teams, you have to have kills. You have to put the ball away. Between being stronger at blocking and bigger at approaching, that has paid dividends.
Next up for Bremen is a match against LaVille (16-13) in the first semifinal on Saturday at 11 a.m. The Lady Lancers defeated the Lady Lions in five sets two weeks ago. The winner comes back that same night to play for a sectional title.
BREMEN def. WESTVILLE 25-20, 25-10, 25-19
At Bremen Sectional
Kills - Maja Heinze 6, Isabella Smith 5, Bailey Vermillion 4, Lydia Stamm 4, Taylor Haseley
Aces - Hamm 3, Vermillion 3, Emilee Taylor 2, Lauren Miller 2, Smith 2, Hannah Deadmond
Kills - 8
Aces - 5