The Lutheran Central School eighth grade volleyball is no stranger to winning.
Since the fifth grade, this group of particular players has an overall record of 84-1 dating back to 2018.
In their final season together at Lutheran Central, the Saints made the most of it.
The team went a perfect 32-0 to capture the school’s first state championship, winning the 2021 Indiana Lutheran Schools Athletic Association State Volleyball Tournament. The tournament was held in Seymour from Oct. 8 to 10.
“I feel like it was a really good season for them,” head coach Jessica Wischmeier said. “They worked hard.”
Wischmeier admitted the team’s sights weren’t set on state at the beginning of the season. The Saints wanted to win the Lutheran Invitational Tournament, and after they did that, Wischmeier started to realize state was a possibility.
In addition to winning the LIT this season, the Saints won the Owen Valley Invitational Tournament, St. John’s Sauers Eighth Grade Round Robin Tournament and Brownstown Central Eighth Grade Tournament.
The Saints miraculously only lost one set all season long.
“All the girls understand what their role on the team is,” Wischmeier said. “They each do their part. They all work really hard on serving. We don’t miss our serves.”
The Saints’ one loss in the past four years came in 2019 when the girls were in sixth grade and lost to Brownstown’s seventh grade team in three sets.
“Wish we could have that one back,” Wischmeier said.
But this season, the team didn’t feel any pressure and just went out and played its game.
The eight players on the team are Maddie Adams, Olivia Fritz, Emily Keller, Harley Toppe, Hunter Trueblood, Erica Warren, Kassidy Wischmeier and Sophie Wischmeier. Jessica Wischmeier, who played volleyball at Brownstown Central High School and is the mother of Sophie, and Julie Warren, who played softball at Seymour and is the mother of Erica, are the two coaches.
This group has been together since fifth grade and has continuously gotten better every season.
“I tell the girls all the time in practice, ‘If you’re where you’re supposed to be, the ball will come to you,’” Wischmeier said. “They’ve just grown tremendously as athletes and as people. They’re just the neatest bunch of girls.”
From the moment this group came together in fifth grade, Wischmeier could tell they were special by their work ethic.
“They all just really loved volleyball,” she said. “Always wanted to be in the gym, didn’t want to take any days off.”
Their final season together culminated in the run in the ILSAA tournament. The Saints had state tournament wins over St. Peter’s, Columbus; Holy Cross, Indianapolis; Emmanuel St. Michael, Fort Wayne; Wyneken Memorial, Decatur; and Central Lutheran, New Haven.
The state championship match came against Immanuel Lutheran of Seymour, and it was a tight match.
The Saints were trailing the Warriors 22-12 in the first set.
“We came out playing flat,” Wischmeier said.
But the Saints made some adjustments and fought their way back. They eventually took the lead and won the first 25-24. In the second set, it was Lutheran Central that had the lead, but Immanuel Lutheran fought back.
The Saints were able to prevail, though, and also won the second set 25-24 to win the title.
“It was back and forth, and volleyball is a game of runs, and if you can be on the run at the end, that’s the best time to have it,” Wischmeier said. “Luckily for us, we were.”
After struggling in that first set, the Saints didn’t want their season to come to an end this year with a record of 31-1 and go out on a loss.
“I was just thinking to myself ‘We cannot lose this. We have to win. We just have to,’” Wischmeier said. “Me and Julie’s will to win, we just put that on the girls and were like, ‘We’re not going out like this.’ We started our comeback, the girls got excited, their spirit flipped and they took off from there.”
Much like when the Brownstown Central High School varsity team won sectional two weeks ago, the Lutheran Central eighth-graders got to ride firetrucks around town for winning state.
It was the perfect way to cap off a nearly perfect playing career together as a team over the last four years.
The girls will likely be split up when they go to high school, but they have three solid high school volleyball programs to choose from in Jackson County — Brownstown Central, Trinity Lutheran and Seymour.
“Any school would be lucky to have them if they could get them,” Wischmeier said. “They’re just a really determined bunch of girls.”