FREDERICKTOWN — Getting swept by Pleasant in the last season’s OHSAA’s volleyball district finals was the worst thing that the 2018 Fredericktown Freddies ever experienced, on the court. For this year’s Freddies, however, it may have been the most important game of 2019.
That loss ended their season and caused them to miss a spot in the regionals. It was a loss that haunted the Freddies for 12 months, until they finally avenged it in last Saturday’s district final, with a sweep of their own, over Northridge.
Saturday’s win puts the Freddies (22-4) in their first regional since 2002, with a first-round match against Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (19-6) at Fairmont High School in Kettering. The two teams will square off on Thursday at 6 p.m.
Up until last season’s breakthrough, 19-5 season, the Freddies and their head coach Shena Beheler struggled to stay above .500, so last season’s success brought a new level of excitement. In order to take it further, this season, the Freddies needed something more.
“It was about getting confidence in ourselves and believing in ourselves, that we could do it,” said Fredericktown senior Paige Oswalt. “It was about trusting each other and remaining calm on the court. I think that we have come a long way and I’m super proud of all of us and all that we’ve accomplished.”
Like the rest of her teammates, Oswalt knew they were better than they showed in that last match in 2018.
“It was the residual taste of last year,” Oswalt said. “I didn’t like not winning. I understand it and I was happy for the other team, but we really wanted it and, I think, this year we really capitalized on our drive to finally get there. We just wanted it more and we were more confident, too.”
One more element has given the Freddies the edge.
“All of the frustration and upset stayed with us this whole season,” said Fredericktown senior Kelsey Boeshart. “This year, it’s about being mentally tough, Last year, we might have broken down in tough situations.”
For Fredericktown setter Olivia Mast, it is about the special bond between players and with their coaches.
“We have great coaches that really want us to be the best,” Mast said. “They want everyone to be improving and everybody comes to practice, ready to work hard and that means a lot.”
This year has been about showing that the Freddies were better than last season.
“It was such a tough loss,” Mast said. “We really could have done so much better and, at least, competed more. We knew, this year, we weren’t going to let that happen again.”
Marilyn Rutherford, who was head coach of the Freddies when they went to their last regional 17 years ago, has stayed with the team as an assistant coach and has helped Beheler every step of the way. She thinks this years’ team compares well to the 2002 team.
“There’s a lot of comparisons,” Rutherford said. “They have wonderful skills. Any of these girls able to put the winning set up. We’re fortunate to have a lot of arsenal. Sometimes, when you rotate, you might be in a weak rotation. With this (year’s) team, we have the luxury to rotate and just keep going.”
Getting to see the year 2019 being affixed to the banner of Freddies’ volleyball teams that have gone to the regionals gave Summer Weller and her teammates one more thing to smile about. It has made all the work pay off.
“We’ve had some pretty sweaty practices,” Weller said. “(Thursday’s game) is going to come down to who wants it more. It will be about, who is going to fight and leave it all on the floor.”
There are no weak teams in the regionals and the action doesn’t let up.
“Now, we’re just preparing for the next level,” Freddies’ senior Hannah Vaughn said. “The games are going to get tougher. That’s what this week’s practices are for — to prepare us for that.”
The Freddies and Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy know little about each other going into Thursday, but Vaughn likes the anonymity.
“It will be different, because usually, we have some type of background on the team we are facing,” Vaughn said. “In a way, it will be nice to go into a game not knowing what to expect. We just have to prepare for anything.”
It has been a slow, patient climb for Beheler and the Freddies. Reaching the regionals is just the latest milestone.
“This has really been amazing,” Beheler said. “The girls have worked hard and really worked on their game. Just to see them have success is icing on the cake.”
Beheler credits her senior leaders, along with Rutherford and her other assistant coaches for the success that the Freddies are enjoying.
“They’ve made this job as stress-free as it can be,” Beheler said. “Having Marilyn (Rutherford) come back here as an assistant really helps. If she sees something that we need to be doing, she is all about sharing and helping.”