By Chris Chaney
A hot start and a place near the top of the Southern Buckeye Conference’s National Division standings has head coach Carmen Tobe’s Clermont Northeastern Lady Rockets focused on making a second-half push for the school’s first league title since 2006.
“The girls are really working well together as a team,” Tobe said. “We had a game against Goshen (on Sept. 16) and beat them in five games. It was a tough match, but we’re 10-3 now and the girls are determined to fight for the league.”
Sitting at 10-3 overall and holding steady with a 4-1 mark in the SBC, CNE has taken the necessary steps to go from middling .500 mainstay to a force in the division.
“The last few years we’ve been right around .500,” Tobe explained, “so this year we wanted to keep it above that and improve on that mark and we have.
“10-3 is really good, but we’re pushing to keep our record high and to keep adding W’s to the record.”
The Lady Rockets have a wide-ranging roster that includes four captains that span three different years of experience, but it’s been a team effort, Tobe stresses, that has gotten the squad into contention for a league title.
“I would say as a whole, the entire team has stepped up as a group and are working well together,” she said. “As far as leadership, we have four captains. Abbi Pritchard, a senior, Briana Simpson, a senior, our setter Katie Hill, who is a junior and Lindsay Wright, who’s a sophomore.”
Wright was a First Team All-SBC selection as a freshman.
“I could name a bunch of girls who have done well this year,” the coach said, “so, I could go off and name every one of them, but we play as a group and not individuals.
“It speaks to the strength of the program. We have five seniors who have definitely helped out the team, but we also have a good core of juniors and sophomores that will help us to keep building the program.”
To get where they are currently, the Lady Rockets have played well in streaks. They opened the season with three straight victories over New Richmond, Ripley-Union and Bethel-Tate with the match against Bethel being the only one the Lady Rockets didn’t win in straight sets (they won it in four games). From there, CNE hit a rough patch, dropping three of their next four, including a four-setter to league-leading Williamsburg.
However, since a Aug. 31 loss to Little Miami, CNE has ripped off six wins in a row, three of which were in conference to put them one game back of Williamsburg in the National Division standings.
With eight matches remaining, the Lady Rockets control their own destiny both in the league and outside of it.
“We’re going to start back up in the league next Thursday, (Sept. 26) at Williamsburg,” Tobe said. “They were a tough game the first time we played them, but we have some games between now and then that should help us getting ready for league play.”
Those games — four in seven days — will see the Lady Rockets host Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, a top program in their own right, travel to Western Brown, and host Indian Hill and Amelia.
Beginning with that Sept. 26 showdown with Williamsburg, the Lady Rockets will play their final five games of the regular season against league opponents. If CNE can knock off Williamsburg and take care of business the rest of the way, they will earn at least a share of the league title with the Lady Wildcats.
Going past the regular season, Tobe said that her squad will continue to push themselves.
“We want to go far in the tournament,” she said of the sectional. “We have to push through that first round first, though.”
The sectional tournament will get underway with the first games being played the week of Oct. 14.