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St. Henry wins six matches in two days to reclaim All ‘A’ Classic state volleyball championship

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

St. Henry volleyball players took turns planting kisses on the championship trophy after winning the All “A” Classic state tournament on Saturday at the St. Henry Athletic Complex in Florence.

St. Henry volleyball players Maria Tobergte, left, and Kayla Kluemper give welcome back kisses to the All “A” Classic championship trophy.

After holding the small-school state title for three consecutive years from 2012 to 2014, the Crusaders were happy to have the gleaming trophy back in their arms for the first time in three years.

“We wanted to redeem ourselves and we did it,” said St. Henry junior Maria Tobergte. “We got the job done this time.”

St. Henry was upset in the regional round of the 2015 small-school playoffs and lost in the championship final of last year’s state tournament. Tobergte played on both of those teams and she made sure the Crusaders came out on top this year.

In the semifinals on Saturday, St. Henry knocked off defending champion Louisville Presentation with Tobergte getting 20 kills and 20 defensive digs in the three-set match. In the championship final, the Crusaders defeated Kentucky Country Day in two sets with Tobergte getting eight kills, four service aces and nine digs.

No one was surprised that St. Henry coach Maureen Kaiser gave the tournament’s valuable player award to Tobergte, who has already accepted a scholarship offer from the University of Cincinnati.

“She just controls the tempo of the game,”  Kaiser said. “She’s got a wicked off-speed (hit) that keeps defenses on their toes. She’s hard to read and she’s very powerful. She’s extremely smart and she’s got a high volleyball IQ. I’ve never had a player that well-rounded.”

St. Henry won six matches during the two-day tournament to raise its season record to 20-7. The only match that went three games was the one against Presentation. The Crusaders lost the first game, 25-23, and then came back to win the next two, 25-19 and 25-16.

St. Henry players Zoe Epplen, center, and Kayla Kluemper team up for a block at the net during their team’s state semifinal match against Louisville Presentation. (Photo by Ted Kluemper)

The score was tied, 10-10, in the third game before St. Henry took command behind Tobergte’s outside hitting and sophomore Zoe Epplen’s strong play at the net.

“We were all a little bit mad, but we knew we just had to pull together and win the next two,” Epplen said of losing the first game in the set. “We never give up. We’re always together and just always push through. That’s what’s great.”

Epplen and junior Jacey Blust were the other St. Henry players named to the state all-tournament team. Tobergte said it was “very humbling” to receive the most valuable player award even though she was obviously the go-to player in the Crusaders’ attack.

“It’s kind of stressful sometimes,” she said, “but it definitely feels good to know that my teammates can rely on me when they need to and it feels really good to be able to get the job done.”

Walton-Verona defeated Washington County, 24-26, 25-13, 25-14, in the All “A” Classic consolation bracket final. The Bearcats finished with a 4-2 tournament record that included a win over Bishop Brossart in the consolation bracket semifinals.

This is the first time that the All “A” Classic state volleyball tournament was held in Northern Kentucky and there’s a good chance it will return next year.

“It went really well,” Kaiser said. “We got a lot of compliments on the facility. It seemed to work out with the seating and everything, and it was a good atmosphere. It was a lot of fun.”

First round
St. Henry def. Lexington Christian, 25-9. 25-8
Louisville Presentation def. Bardstown, 25-14, 25-18
Paintsville def. Christian Fellowship, 17-25, 25-20, 25-15
Kentucky Country Day def. Caldwell County, 25-23, 23-25, 25-20
St. Henry def. Louisville Presentation, 23-25, 25-29, 25-16
Kentucky Country Day def. Paintsville, 25-16, 25-21
Championship final
St. Henry def. Kentucky Country Day, 25-15. 25-16

First round
Bishop Brossart def. Clinton County, 25-14, 26-24
Walton-Verona def. Harlan, 25-8, 25-7
Hazard def. West Carter, 25-17, 25-6
Washington County def. Whitesville Trinity, 30-28, 26-24
Walton-Verona def. Bishop Brossart, 25-22, 22-25, 25-13
Washington County def. Hazard, 25-22, 25-20
Bracket final
Walton-Verona def. Washington County, St. Henry def. Kentucky Country Day, 24-26, 25-13, 25-14

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