Golden Eagles clinch yet another title


By Michael Rich - For the Gazette



Big Walnut’s Emma Urhammer (3) hammers home a kill during the first set of Thursday’s OCC showdown against visiting Franklin Heights.


Ben Stroup | Gazette

The year 1991 was a big year for popular culture.

Nirvana’s “Nevermind”, M.C. Hammer’s “Too Legit To Quit” and Michael Bolton’s “When a Man Loves a Women” were all popular songs on the radio.

Films “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”, “Silence of the Lambs” and “Boyz in the Hood” were in theaters.

Hits “Roseanne”, “Full House” and “Coach” graced television sets across the country.

It was also a big year in the history of the Big Walnut girls volleyball program, which captured the first of 20 conference championships under coach Ron Lehman.

The most recent of those titles was secured Tuesday night in a win against Newark and clinched outright with a 25-6, 25-9, 25-17 victory over Franklin Heights Thursday night in Sunbury.

It was fitting, too. The Golden Eagles (17-3, 9-0) got to celebrate this championship on Senior Night.

It’s the third time in four years this group, which includes Meredith Thomas, Emma Urhammer, Griffith Haley and captain Emma Gebele, will see a year added to the “Conference Championships” section on the first of two banners hanging in the gym.

“It’s been a great a group of kids,” Lehman said. “There’s been some attrition over the years, but the four that are left have done a great job. I’m real proud of what they’ve accomplished.”

For Gebele, being a senior makes this one special.

“This is my last shot to do it, so it felt like we had to do it,” she said. “This year, we’ve been undefeated, which is just crazy.”

The program has so many conference titles (21 overall), district finalists (one), district titles (16), regional finalists (four) and regional championships (six) it takes two banners to recognize all of them.

Not to mention the two banners on the other side of the gym recognizing the state runner-up teams of 1991 and 2010.

“It makes me proud to go to this school and to be a part of this program,” Gebele said.

Lehman, his staff and his players are responsible for all but one conference title.

So, when asked what he thought when he looked up to the rafters, the mild-mannered, soft-spoken Lehman talked about the players that won those titles and the assistants that helped him along the way, including Janet Lehman, who spent 20 years as his assistant.

“(There’s) lots of great kids that have come through here and worked hard, some really great coaches,” he said.

“The first 20 years, my sister-in-law, Janet was my assistant. She got our weight program going. We were about the only girls sport that lifted weights, which made a huge difference in our program.”

His current crop of assistants all played for him. Nicole Casner was a part of his first team in 1989 and has coached with him off and on for 11 years.

“I’m a glutton for punishment,” she quipped.

Jazmine Reed has assisted him for seven years. A 2011 graduate, Reed, along with the newest volunteer assistant Sammie Ebright (who’s in her first year), was a part of the state runner-up team in 2010.

“We’ve built a program and it’s a team thing as coaches and the kids that have come through here,” Lehman said. “That’s neat to see and it’s neat to see them carrying it on.”

This team, back in Division II, is looking to add to the “District Title” section of those banners.

Lehman said his team has come together this season.

“The thing that was holding us back last year, I think, was passing,” Lehman said. “We struggled with that a lot. We’ve worked hard on it. We’ve got at least one new person in there – Emily Vance – who’s doing a great job. So our passing has improved tremendously … and our back-row defense.”

Kassie Bowmar and Kelsie Imertreijs had six kills apiece while Vance and Machaela Podraza had four aces apiece to lead the Eagles, which had 17 as a team.

Podraza led with 18 assists and Lauren Speelman finished with seven digs to lead the way.

“We’ve been getting along a lot more than we have in the past,” Gebele said. “I had a really fun time playing with all of the girls this year.”

BW wraps up league play with a visit to Groveport-Madison Tuesday night at 7 p.m.

Big Walnut’s Emma Urhammer (3) hammers home a kill during the first set of Thursday’s OCC showdown against visiting Franklin Heights.
http://www.delgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/40/2017/10/web1_bw3-1.jpgBig Walnut’s Emma Urhammer (3) hammers home a kill during the first set of Thursday’s OCC showdown against visiting Franklin Heights. Ben Stroup | Gazette

By Michael Rich

For the Gazette

Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at mrichnotwealthy@gmail.com.

Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at mrichnotwealthy@gmail.com.