Clermont Northeastern High School hosted a triple bill in one evening Oct. 11.
Opening Night. Homecoming. Senior Night. All at once.
The Rockets’ varsity and junior varsity volleyball teams played Southern Buckeye Athletic and Academic Conference rival Georgetown and honored senior middle blockers Jillian Kirby and Erika Gregston. Those two, along with the rest of the JV and varsity players, had endured a grueling two months which saw them travel approximately 950 miles, playing 21 straight matches on the road.
“We haven’t done anything at home. We haven’t practiced in this gym or anything. We practiced in our middle school gym, which was OK. It has a much lower ceiling and a lot less playable area, but we made it work,” coach Emma Keough said.
During a heavy rainstorm on a Friday night in June, water seeped through the roof, which was being replaced, and seeped down the walls and onto the maple floor. High school principal T.J. Glassmeyer said it took two weeks to tear up what was left and begin the replacement process.
“It hasn’t been the ideal situation for the students at all, and I feel bad for the girls that they had to play almost all of their games on the road. It’s not easy to do, but they came together, they bonded, they worked really, really hard and we’re excited that we’re able to get them in tonight,” Glassmeyer said.
As the only seniors on the team, Kirby and Gregston did their best to keep things in perspective and help turn an unfortunate situation into a positive experience.
“Coming in I was super nervous about it, because playing every game on the road, no one does that, but it’s actually been super fun for the most part,” Kirby said. “I mean the bus rides aren’t fun, just sitting there for 40 minutes for long-distance games, but overall, I mean the team’s really rallied behind everybody, and the games have been really good and a lot of parents have come out to watch us play too, so we’ve had a good support system.”
Gregston said the travel sometimes took its toll. The closest trip for the Rockets was to Williamsburg – 18 miles round trip. The longest was East Clinton – 77 miles round trip, and the Rockets went there twice.
“I feel like we could have fallen apart a lot because we’re going to all of these away games and we’re all going to be tired and we’re all going to be in bad moods some days, and I feel like we just have to be there for your team and pick them up because it’s going to be really hard,” Gregston said.
“Oh gosh, I could go on a long time I’ve said from the beginning, as terrible as I felt about this season being this way for these two, they were the best seniors for this to happen to, because those two more than any I’ve coached I knew they would handle this adversity with class and would handle it with a leadership attitude and would deal with it the best, but having those two for four years, thinking about talking about them after tonight when we have our little celebration, I don’t like thinking about it because they really mean a lot to me. Dealing with it by not dealing with it. Getting the privilege of working with two really great kids for four years is a special thing, and both of them have a very special place in my heart personally, and in the school and in the program as well,” Keough said.
“I feel like it was, I feel like people kind of looked to us to see how we reacted to the news of, OK, this is your senior year, it kind of sucks the most for you guys,” Kirby said. “You don’t have a single home game except for this one, which we weren’t even sure if we could play this one in the gym, so I think people kind of looked to us to see how we responded to it. But we were both just kind of ‘Well, now we have to win on the road, so let’s just go do it.’”
Gregston credited her coach, and said Senior Night would be an emotional experience.
“It’s really exciting, but I’m really sad because I’ve been with my coaches four years now. We’ve gotten to know each other really well,” Gregston said. “It’s really sad leaving such a great team, great coaching throughout the year, just like I’ve gotten so much better because of my coaching and because of my teammates.”
Kirby was fighting the emotions of the evening an hour before the ceremonies.
"Super excited … I know I’m going to cry, because like she said, we’ve been on this team for four years and it means a lot to us being here, and I’m about to cry now to think about it.”
Practicing in the smaller middle school gymnasium may have made CNE a better team.
“It taught us to be in more control. Our ball control was a lot better because we had to keep the ball out of the ceiling. I would say control over all and learning to play within space available,” Keough said.
Athletic director Dave Colwell said the entire school was affected by the disruption, and work on the arena was finished just hours before the Georgetown match, with hanging SBAAC banners and putting down mats for the team chairs.
“We had to move basketball offseason workouts, gym classes. Those were the two main kinds of highways to get through the building were the stage and the bleachers. During lunch, before school, kids used to always be in the bleachers. Those were some of the challenges. The gym was completely closed,” Colwell said.
The school also took a temporary financial hit. They did not get any gate receipts for previously scheduled home matches that had to be moved.
Colwell and Glassmeyer both said the new floor may be the best in the SBAAC. They visited the Robbins Sports Surfaces on Eastern Avenue.
“What we went with, was we wanted it to be unique to match the layout of our gym as possible, and that’s kind of what we came up with,” Colwell said
They chose a checkerboard, parquet-style design – which Colwell referred to as “Boston Square,” similar to that made famous at the old Boston Garden.
“It’s similar to what it was in the past. We wanted to, whenever we could make the floor pop, so the SBC and the Rockets, they are both outlined so you can see the floor through those,” Colwell said.
“I think we’re going to have the prettiest court in Clermont County. I mean it’s really a show piece for our students,” Glassmeyer said.
CNE defeated Georgetown in straight sets, 25-10, 25-1, 25-4, to complete a 14-7 regular season. The Rockets went 9-3 in the SBAAC National Division, finishing second behind Williamsburg. They earned the No. 5 seed n the Division III sectional tournament and began postseason play against No. 6 Madeira Tuesday, Oct. 16, at Blanchester, one of the gyms they visited twice during their travel odyssey.
Keough was optimistic her team could make school history and advance out of sectionals.
“They have great attitudes and they’re great team players. They play defense very well. I think our offense has improved as the season has gone on, and more than anything, they have a fight about them, and these two seniors right here are definitely key cogs in that, to be determined and to tell the rest of the team ‘We can do this if we just play our game and play consistently, we can advance.”
Clermont Northeastern’s volleyball road trips
Goshen - 10.2 miles Seven Hills - 29.7 Milford - 11.1 Madeira - 18.7 Goshen - 10.2 Felicity - 25.3 East Clinton - 38.8 Western Brown - 16.5 Blanchester - 15.6 Bethel-Tate - 17 Reading - 27.9 Indian Hill - 16.6 Sports Plus (vs. Cincinnati Trailblazers)- 25.9 Williamsburg - 9.3 Georgetown - 26.5 Wilmington - 31.1 Felicity - 25.3 East Clinton - 38.8 Blanchester - 15.6 Bethel-Tate - 17 New Richmond - 19.7 Miami Valley Christian - 16.1 Williamsburg - 9.3
CNE, in partnership with the community, will provide students with the skills and exploratory experiences that enable them to reach their fullest potential. To accomplish this, the CNE staff will:
• Strive to make children confident and creative builders of their future
• Research, design, and provide the best academic program and learning environment possible for students.
Schools in the CNE District include Clermont Northeastern High School, Clermont Northeastern Middle School, Clermont Northeastern Elementary School and Clermont Northeastern Preschool.