TIPP CITY — Tippecanoe volleyball coach Howard Garcia understands the Lady Red Devils will face a daunting challenge in the D-II state semifinals against top-ranked Gates Mills Gilmour Academy, 21-1, at 1 p.m. Friday at the Vandalia SAC.
But he also understands the sixth-ranked Red Devils, 27-0, have been up to every challenge so far.
While Tippecanoe is making its third state tournament appearance, with a state runnerup finish in 1992 — Gilmour Academy is making its ninth Final Four appearance, with one state title and one runnerup finish.
“They were at state last year,” Garcia said. “They have been there, done that. We are there, we haven’t done that yet.”
But, Tippecanoe overcame two big road blocks to get to Friday’s match.
They knocked off defending state champion Middletown Fenwick in three sets in the regional semifinals and followed it up with a five-set thriller against Roger Bacon in the regional finals. It was Fenwick who beat Gilmour Academy in the semifinals a year ago.
“They (Middletown Fenwick and Roger Bacon) both play in a very strong conference, the Greater Catholic League,” Garcia said. “The good thing about the Roger Bacon match was it went five sets. That is the second time we have went five sets this season. We showed we have the depth to do that.”
Gilmour Academy is led by 6-foot-1 junior middle Kathryn Ransdorf, who has 259 kills and 89 blocks.
Brinn McClellan, a 5-11 senior middle, has 202 kills and 72 blocks, while 5-11 junior outside hitter Sabrina Gremm has 198 kills, with 5-10 senior Jocelyn Carter adding 175 kills and 65 blocks.
Emma Klika, a 5-8 senior libero, has 537 digs and has served 40 aces.
Anna Rarick, a 6-foot sophomore, has served 57 aces and dished out 305 assists and 5-6 senior setter Ava Nestor has 602 assists.
“They have a very good middle, a good outside hitter and their libero is very good,” Garcia said.
Tippecanoe also has a lot of weapons.
Seniors Corinn Siefring and Rachel Wildermuth and junior Ashley Aselage provide a lot of pop at the net.
Siefring has 283 kills and 41 blocks, while serving 57 aces.
Wildermuth has 205 kills and 83 blocks, while dishing out 507 assists and serving 44 aces.
Aselage has 197 kills and 40 blocks.
“We have good balance,” Garcia said. “We had different girls step at different times against Roger Bacon. At one point, it was Rachel Wildermuth, at one point it was Olivia Gustavson and at another point it was Ashley Aselage.”
Hannah Wildemuth has dished out 312 assists, senior libero Alayna Titley has 382 digs and 38 aces, while senior Kaitlyn Husic leads the team with 59 aces and has 182 digs. Siefring has added to her hitting with 281 digs.
“One thing we were concerned about was how good Roger Bacon was defensively,” Garcia said. “They had 124 digs in the match, but we had 116. That is pretty good. We showed we can play good defense as well.”
And Tippecanoe will be venturing in to familiar territory.
The Red Devils play an MVL match at Vandalia ever year.
“It is a large gym and our gym is pretty large, so that is a good thing,” Garcia said. “Some times, we seem to struggle with the smaller venues. If other teams are coming from smaller venues, that could be an advantage for us. And our kids are familiar with Vandalia.”
He knows in the end, it comes down to one thing.
“Gilmour is highly rated,” Garcia said. “But, you only have to beat them one night.”
Or in this case, one afternoon.
Which is what the Red Devils are hoping for Friday.