Badin High School senior Alyvia Hegemann knew this season could be special after seeing how the Rams volleyball team responded to a loss at McNicholas in the first week of the season.
The Rockets had swept Badin in straight sets on Aug. 25, and the Rams rebounded the next match with a 3-0 win against Harrison.
They haven’t lost since, and Badin takes a 25-game winning streak into the Division II state semifinals Friday when it plays two-time defending champion Gilmour Academy at 2 p.m. at Wright State’s Nutter Center.
“After we lost to McNick, the next game it started coming together,” said Hegemann, a defensive specialist who was the Greater Catholic League Co-Ed Player of the Year. “We realized nothing was going to be handed to us, so after we lost, we came back 10 times better. We were working harder and playing together as a team, and we knew after that game this is our year.”
Badin (27-1) is making the program’s first Final Four appearance, thanks to a comeback win over Roger Bacon in the regional final Saturday. The Spartans, who had beaten Badin in the regional semifinal in 2020 and regional final last year, won the first set, but the Rams took the next three to advance.
Although it was Badin’s third straight regional tournament appearance, the Rams have only made it to that stage two other times, in 2000 and 2005. Now they will look to add a title banner to go along with the 2022 boys’ team championship earned in the spring.
“We are all very excited,” Hegemann said. “It’s been our end goal the past two years since the team hasn’t changed that much. We are putting everything into our last practices and getting everything out of them to make sure we are ready.”
Rams coach Courtney Weinheimer, who replaced Anitra Brockman this year when she took a job at Central State, said clearing the Roger Bacon hurdle gave the players confidence they can play with anyone. That’s especially important going up against Gilmour, which has made 11 state final-four appearances.
Badin had also beaten Roger Bacon two weeks prior on Senior Night, which marked the program’s first win over the Spartans since 2006.
“We came out in that first game (Saturday) against Roger Bacon, and I think we played a little tight because we were worried about ‘Oh, if we lose, this is going to be our last game,’” Weinheimer said. “And I was like, ‘Stop. Everybody stop. We’ve got to play our game. We can’t worry about tomorrow. We can’t worry about anything. We’ve got to worry about playing right now.’ Once they settled down and started playing their game, they were unstoppable.
“I feel like a weight was lifted off their shoulders and knowing that they got past that game, now anything’s possible.”
Badin returned several key players from last year, including Hegemann and first-team All-GCLC player Sarah Newberry, a middle/outside hitter who is committed to Lewis University. The experience from past seasons has paid off , and the Rams built up some depth while missing starters at various points because of injuries. Sophomore Luci Heid led the league with 268 kills, Newberry followed with 266 to go along with 72 blocks and Hegemann had a league-leading 100 aces. Junior setter Grace Glover had 725 assists, and junior Ellie Green had 948 pass points.
“All season we’ve faced adversity with injuries and things like that, but we’ve showed we can put a lineup on the court that dominants anyone,” Newberry said. “They are defending state champs but they are not the same team they were and we’re going out and focusing on their team this year and who we are, and we know what we are capable of. I think we’re all feeling really good. The energy is high, and we really want this.”
Weinheimer said the team’s hard work has shown all season, and she believes Badin is in a good place heading into state.
“I knew I was walking into a very strong team, but I obviously didn’t expect to come in and have this record by any means,” Weinheimer said. “Working with them over the summer, we put in a lot of hours, so the one thing I did know walking into this year was that this team was going to work really hard because they gave up a lot of their summer to get better even before we had tryouts. So, I knew that they were workhorses and that they were going to do everything they can to win because that’s kind of the culture that has been created prior to me, and now they are reaping the rewards of that. Hopefully we can keep it going two more games.”