High Schools: Badin boys volleyball showed grit in first state championship run

After the Badin High School boys volleyball team returned from winning its first state championship, the players gathered at one of their homes to watch and relive the match.

Senior libero Sam Vornhagen said they were still in disbelief they had actually won.

The Rams (26-2) beat Greater Catholic League Co-Ed foe Dayton Carroll in four sets Sunday to claim the Division II state title, but they had to rally from a six-point deficit to avoid a fifth game and ended a back-and-forth battle with a 30-28 victory. The two teams had split a pair of contests during the regular season with Carroll winning the season opener, and Badin knew it would be an evenly-matched competition.

“Honestly, the way it was going, I thought it never was gonna end,” Vornhagen said. “It really was just like back and forth, and my legs were getting so tired, I was like we just got to end the game. As soon as that ball went down, it was like the best feeling ever. I just fell to the floor. This is literally all we’ve ever dreamed for and we finally got it. It honestly made us feel like we worked for that ourselves, like we really put in all that effort and we got the outcome we were looking for.”

Badin won the first two sets 25-22 and 25-21 before dropping the third by eight points. When Carroll pushed its lead to six points in the fourth, coach Anitra Brockman could see the Rams were both physically and mentally wiped. She called a timeout and reminded them she believed in them and they just needed to pull from within to finish strong.

And they did. With Carroll leading 23-21, Badin used its last timeout and Brockman shared a similar message.

“I used my last timeout and again told all the boys, ‘I believe in every one of you. I need you guys to believe in each other. Everything you’ve fought for all season, do not let it in, keep fighting,’” Brockman said. “And they tied it and it was point for point of battle. I don’t think we played in the game all season like Sunday’s game. When we won it was a stir of emotions. It was excitement. For me, it was the end, for the seniors that was the end, but just overall, a mix of emotions.”

Brockman wrapped up her fourth and final season with the Rams in memorable fashion before she moves on as Central State University’s women’s and men’s volleyball coach. Eight seniors also ended their time at Badin on a high note.

“It feels amazing,” Brockman said. “As a coach, it’s always a bonus. It’s one of those things you’re like, you know, if I win a championship, it would be the icing on the cake. And literally, the icing on the cake happened. I’m very grateful to Badin for giving me the opportunity to coach there for the past four years and families and the student athletes for trusting me to come in and instill culture in my coaching style and for them all to embrace it. It couldn’t have happened without the buy-in from everyone. And I’m just so grateful and thankful for that. And I’m still trying to soak it all in.”

Badin had lost to Fenwick in the state semifinals last year before the Falcons won the title, but no one knew what to expect from the Rams this year with almost an entirely new lineup.

Vornhagen and leading attacker Eli Halverson started matches last year and sophomore Jordan Brockman split setting duties as a freshman, but everyone else was new. The team this year also wasn’t as tall as 2021, and coach Brockman worried that blocking would be an issue and the Rams would be left exposed defensively.

“We never really thought we could have got back to where we were last year because we had all the parts last year,” Vornhagen said. “We just faced a really good Fenwick team that no one beat. So coming back this season, it was just, ‘We got to win doing something different and making our own way of winning games, not necessarily like the traditional way.’ So we just had to overcome the adversity of having other teams that were better than us and just playing our style game to beat them.”

The team’s motto last year was “unfinished business,” which might have been more fitting this year after coming up just short of Badin’s first final appearance in 2021. But, at an open gym before this season, one of the players told coach Brockman, “Leave no doubt, we’re going to come back strong,” she recalled, and that became the new slogan: “Leave no doubt.”

Brockman felt this group was just as talented as last year but the biggest difference was the 2022 squad had a higher volleyball IQ, thanks to everyone playing club in the offseason. This team also ended up being more well-rounded with better defense, whereas the offense won a lot of games last year.

“I don’t think I really knew what we were capable of doing until midseason, but it wasn’t until the end of the season when we had won the GCL Co-Ed that I said to the coaching staff, ‘This team is hungry, they want that state championship and they can do it,’” Brockman said. “And they stayed focus, showed heart, determination and pure grit. I’m just so proud of them.”

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