CINCINNATI — The 2012 season for the Mount Vernon boys volleyball team went as far as it could go — the Division II Final Four.
Saturday, the Yellow Jackets lost to Roger Bacon, 25-13, 25-16, 25-20 in the state semifinal at Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati. The loss ended Mount Vernon’s second appearance at the state tournament in three years.
It wasn’t the way they wanted to go.
The Jackets looked overwhelmed and worn out. They didn’t communicate on the court, with barely a word spoken through much of the match. Before it was over, their shoulders were slumped and they gave a look of defeat.
It was completely different from the way the postseason had panned out to that point.
“All of us were really, really excited to be coming here,” said junior Jake Scott. “Every practice, we were hitting the ball well. Then, when we got here, our passion kind of fell apart. We could have competed with (Roger Bacon).”
In the state semifinals, it takes a near-perfect effort to advance. Roger Bacon had that near-perfect effort, with only four serves misfired all day. During an 11-0 run that spanned the first and second sets, the Spartans’ Josh Wilking had five aces.
In contrast, the Jackets didn’t have an ace until freshman Luke Earnst had the team’s only one on the 29th point in the third set.
Roger Bacon dominated at the net, with Erik Edwards and Connor Mouty landing spikes throughout the match. Defensively, they stopped multiple spikes by Cole Shoemaker, Aaron Nixon, Jake Scott and Matt McManaway. At one point, the Spartans had six straight digs.
“My impression of (Roger Bacon) is that they were really solid,” said Mount Vernon head coach Alan Cassell. “My impression of us is that we didn’t pass. And when you can’t pass, you don’t do anything.”
It looked good for Mount Vernon early on, when the team landed the first three points by McManaway and Nixon. The wheels came off quickly after that, with Roger Bacon going on runs of 7-2, 5-1 and 9-0 in the first set.
Set No. 2 was hard fought, with the Jackets cutting back on mistakes. But Roger Bacon wasn’t budging and never allowed Mount Vernon more than two consecutive points.
By the start of the third set, the players’ energy had been sapped.
“I think some guys on the team just kind of gave up,” said Scott. “Maybe we were tired, I don’t know. We just gave up in the end.”
“It just wasn’t a good day,” said Cassell. “We tried bringing some younger guys in to mix things up. You never know who would have a good day. We didn’t have too many kids have a good day.”
Mount Vernon had one final ray of hope, when the team narrowed the gap in the third set to 16-14. In the ensuing point, the Jackets came up with a fantastic dig on an Edwards spike. But the Jackets stood and watched the struck ball hit the floor rather than play it.
When the Jackets regained the serve, they lost the ensuing point when the referee determined that they had used the wrong server.
However, if the match was one Mount Vernon would like to forget, the season has been one to remember. And with a lot of talent returning next year, there could be another big run in store for the Jackets and their fans.
“We’re going to be a strong team next year,” said Scott. “We’re going to have strong hitters and strong middles. We’ll be strong, offensively.”
“We have a lot of young guys,” said Cassell. “At one point, we had only two seniors on the floor.”
For Shoemaker, Bryan Downs, Dan Eddy and Josiah Burney, the season is over, as is their high school careers.
“They’re a good group of guys,” said Cassell. “You never want to see a group go out like that.”