Minford outlasts SW in five-set thriller


By Kevin Colley - kcolley@aimmediamidwest.com



SOUTH WEBSTER — In any match, fast starts are usually imperative to a team’s overall success.

On Tuesday evening, that fact proved to be the case for the Minford Falcons’ volleyball program as Minford used blazing starts of 10-5 and 10-3 in the first and fifth sets to ultimately pick up a critical road win over the South Webster Jeeps’ volleyball program, 3-2 (25-23, 16-25, 25-22, 19-25, 15-12) in an SOC II match that was held at South Webster High School in South Webster.

For Rachael Stapleton, the victory

“Anytime you’re able to leave South Webster with a victory, you’re happy about it,” Stapleton said. “South Webster has a good program going. Darcee Claxon has brought a lot to that program. We have struggled to play as well as we’re capable of all of the time, so we’ve been working on that in practice. I have seen spots where I believe that we are playing as well as we can be playing, and in other spots, I have seen us be riddled by error after error. That’s something that we will need to continue to pick up on as far as our side is concerned.”

On the other side of the coin, however, the loss was certainly frustrating for Darcee Claxon, who knows that her unit has the talent and wherewithal to do great things on the volleyball court.

“It was a tough loss especially considering we didn’t come close to playing to our potential, but that’s been the case the entire season,” Claxon said. “We have to figure out how to work together as a single unit and we need players to lead.”

From the start of Tuesday’s match, the Lady Falcons proved that they would be there to stay as Minford jumped out to its aforementioned 10-5 lead behind the abilities of Ashley Blankenship, who proved to be a terror on the frontline all evening long. Overall, Blankenship collected four kills, two solo block, and an assisted block in the first set alone en route to putting up a strong 15 kills and five blocks (three solo, two assisted) on the evening.

“Ashley is a big asset to our team,” Stapleton said. “She’s definitely a girl who can score points for us, and we try to get her the ball as often as we can.”

However, despite leading by a solid margin after 15 volleys of play, South Webster showed that it wasn’t to be phased as the Jeeps stormed right back behind the play of Olivia Messer. Messer, who collected four kills and an ace in the first set en route to 11 kills and two aces for the match, reeled off three consecutive spikes in a row to bring the Jeeps right back within a volley at 13-12 as South Webster eventually knotted the first set three separate times with the help of five Minford serving errors.

Unfortunately for the Jeeps, they, too, could not steer clear of the error bug. In fact, South Webster also committed five serving errors as well, and those misplays, along with a pair of aces from Zoe Doll, allowed Minford to emerge with a hard-fought 25-23 victory in the first set.

“I’m really happy with Zoe,” Stapleton said of Doll’s efforts on the backline. “She’s a returning starter from our team last year, and she plays the setter position for me primarily. Lately, however, she’s been playing all the way around, and I believe she’s picked up her game, which is, in turn, allowing the entire team to play better. She’s really been a leader out there on the floor. Her being in service position to begin each set helps us out.”

But after tying or trading the lead with the Lady Falcons in each of the first 13 volleys in the second set of play, however, it was the Lady Jeeps who would emerge victorious in the second set. In fact, Avery Zempter, who obtained eight kills and an ace on the evening, proved to be the catalyst for South Webster in the second frame as her four kills and lone ace led South Webster to a strong 25-16 win in the second set.

Blankenship, however, proved that she wasn’t messing around. The 6-3 junior middle hitter’s prowess on the frontline — which led to six kills in a 32-volley span — allowed Minford to emerge from early deficits of 3-0 and 9-7 en route to a 25-22 victory.

But once more, the Jeeps came back and limited their mistakes en route to a solid fourth set that saw South Webster retake the momentum in the affair. In fact, the Jeeps erred just two times over the remaining 28 volleys while Minford committed six errors during the same stretch as South Webster — behind three additional kills from Zempter — rallied from a 9-6 deficit to take home a 25-19 victory in the fourth set.

However, Minford’s height on the frontline and its ability to limit mistakes in the final set proved to be the deciding factor in the match. Blankenship collected a kill, an ace, and a block in the third set, and four South Webster errors compared to just one misplay for the Lady Falcons ultimately allowed Minford to take the fifth and final set, 15-12, as well as the match.

With the victory, the Lady Falcons improved to 5-6 on the year. Minford will look to continue to improve its conference and overall standing in an SOC II volleyball matchup against Northwest on Thursday evening. The Lady Mohawks edged Minford in the pair’s initial meeting, 3-2, on Aug. 29 in McDermott.

“Ashley was out during the initial meeting,” Stapleton said. “She had been hospitalized, so she didn’t play, and Zoe was a River Days candidate, so she had to leave early during the match. We played with a different lineup, and as a result, had different rotations that we hadn’t really practiced with because we weren’t expecting both of them to be out. Hopefully, we’ll show off our strongest rotation in our return to our home court, and try to obtain a victory.”

As for Claxon, the Lady Jeeps will have to continue to keep digging for positive momentum in order to close the 2017 season on a strong note. South Webster, who is 2-8 on the year, will play at Wheelersburg on Thursday evening.

“Right now, we have no one stepping up in the big moments and that has been detrimental to us thus far,” Claxon said. “I’d love to see these things come together in the second half of the season.”

By Kevin Colley

kcolley@aimmediamidwest.com

Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7

Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7