Clay goes 3-0, wins Spartan Invitational (def. Nelsonville-York 25-20, 13-25, 29-27, def. Wheelersburg 25-21, 25-22, def. Chillicothe Huntington 25-22, 26-24)
In any circumstance, it was a magical weekend for the Clay Panthers’ volleyball program.
That was the story for Clay following the Spartan Invitational at Albany Alexander, where Clay proved to all in attendance that it is a program to watch in Division IV on down the road.
Match 1 — Quarterfinals
Clay def. Nelsonville-York, 2-1
After pulling together for a gritty victory in the first set of an affair against Nelsonville-York, the Lady Panthers fell to the Lady Buckeyes in the second set before using another gritty effort en route to winning a thrilling back-and-forth affair in the third set against the Division III program on Saturday morning to take a 25-20, 13-25, 29-27 match victory.
As she has all year long, Jensen Warnock continued her consistent play on all fronts by collecting 18 digs, 14 service receptions, 13 kills, and seven points from serve — all team-highs. Shaelyn Vassar continued her solid play from the back row by adding 14 digs, 13 service receptions, and six points from serve, while Shaley Munion continued to entrench herself in the starting rotation by collecting 13 digs and an ace on her own.
Offensively, Lila Brown joined Warnock in heading a strong attack by collecting 34 assists, six points from serve, two assisted blocks, and an ace. Delanie Gilliland (13 service receptions, 10 kills, three aces, two blocks) and Taylor Lewis (13 kills, two assists, one block) rounded out Clay’s tournament-opening performance with their dependable production.
Match 2 — Semifinals
Clay def. Wheelersburg, 2-0
In the second set of play, the story was all about Lila Brown, who has been nothing less than a stronghold for the Lady Panthers all season long. With her 24 assists in Saturday’s semifinal match, Brown exceeded the 1,000-assist mark for her career en route to leading Clay to a straight-set victory over Wheelersburg (25-21, 25-22) in a semifinal match between two Scioto County powers.
Brown, who also added an assisted block to the table en route to spearheading Clay’s efforts, was also led by Jensen Warnock, who obtained 14 kills, 11 digs, and a solo block to the table en route to leading the Lady Panthers in those categories. Warnock also added eight service receptions, seven points from serve, and an assist to put up another complete effort. Gilliland followed Brown’s marks up with 10 digs, nine kills, eight service receptions and three points from serve, while Munion continued to star by collecting 12 points from serve, eight digs, and an assist.
Lewis’ five kills and one assisted block, along with Vassar’s 16 service receptions, were also huge for Clay in the tight affair as the Lady Panthers advanced to the finals with the victory.
Match 3 — Finals
Clay def. Chillicothe Huntington, 2-0
As it had in the initial match of the tournament against Nelsonville-York, Clay showed its coming of age in the tournament finals by taking home a pair of tight sets against the Lady Huntsmen of Chillicothe Huntington (25-22, 26-24) to claim the 2017 Spartan Invitational.
In the final affair, a balanced effort allowed Clay to emerge with the tournament title, as Warnock led the way with 16 digs, 12 kills, seven service receptions, and an assist while Munion continued to star on the backline by obtaining 13 points from serve, 12 digs, and two aces during the match. Gilliland also added another well-rounded affair by collecting 12 service receptions, 11 digs, seven kills, three aces, three points from serve, and a solo block as the aforementioned trio proved to be unstoppable during the final match of the day.
Brown’s 23 assists, Vassar’s 16 service receptions, and Lewis’ seven kills led the Lady Panthers, who improved to 10-2 on the season.
Clay will return to SOC I conference action on Tuesday as a road bout against Eastern (5:30 p.m. start) awaits.
Wheelersburg goes 2-1, finishes third in Spartan Invitational (def. Trimble 25-6, 25-5, lost to Clay 21-25, 22-25, def. Alexander 22-25, 25-19, 25-17)
Match 1 — Quarterfinals
Wheelersburg def. Trimble, 2-0
In Wheelersburg’s first match of the tournament, the Lady Pirates easily rolled through Trimble like a knife cutting through butter, defeating the Athens County program by a 25-6, 25-5 tally on Saturday morning.
Alli McQuay continued her stellar performance from the opening match by obtaining 13 service points and seven aces to set team-highs in both categories. McQuay also collected three kills for the Lady Pirates to round out a fantastic effort. Mia Darnell put together an equally stellar first match by adding 13 service points of her own in addition to six aces.
Abbie Kallner (12 assists, nine service points, three aces) and Ellie Ruby (14 digs, four service points, two aces) also were their usual impressive selves through the match for the Lady Pirates, who breezed on to the semifinal round.
Match 2 — Semifinals
Wheelersburg lost to Clay, 2-0
In a hard-fought match between two storied Scioto County volleyball programs, the Lady Pirates, despite an outstanding 24-dig effort from Ruby and an 11-kill, two block performance from McQuay, fell in a tightly-contested two set against to Clay, 21-25, 22-25, in the semifinals of the Spartan Invitational.
Despite the loss to Clay, Ruby, McQuay, and a host of others showed their impressive skills against a strong Lady Panthers’ squad, with Darnell collecting eight additional service points, five digs, and an ace and Kallner collecting 22 assists and a block from the frontline. Mallory Bergan put together a well-rounded performance (nine digs, seven kills, six service points) to round out the Wheelersburg efforts.
“We have had a great start to our season and knew that we would be really challenged this weekend,” Wheelersburg head coach Allen Perry said. “Clay played a fantastic defensive game. They are very disciplined and their passes were right on all match. We were never really able to get them off balance. Even our best hits were dug up and placed right to the setter, which put us in a defensive position the whole time. They have a few really nice hitters that found any spot that we left open, as they located our adjustments immediately. They are a great team and obviously well coached.”
Match 3 — Third-Place Game
Wheelersburg def. Alexander, 2-1
Despite the loss to Clay, the Lady Pirates didn’t let the loss stymie their efforts in the final match, as Wheelersburg proved the quality of Scioto County volleyball by overcoming a first-set loss to defeat Alexander (22-25, 25-19, 25-17) on its home floor en route to obtaining third place in the tournament.
Once again, McQuay and Ruby came up large for Wheelersburg against the No. 8-ranked team in Division III, as McQuay’s 13 kills, 11 digs, and one block and Ruby’s 21 digs set the tone for the Lady Pirates. Darnell (12 service points, eight digs, one ace) and Kallner (23 assists, seven service points) were critical as the pair teamed with McQuay and Ruby to collect crucial points in the back-and-forth affair.
“I was very proud of my girls in how they were able to bounce back after the loss to Clay to defeat a highly-ranked Alexander squad,” Perry said. It’s hard to refocus in tournaments like these after tough losses and we had to begin play with no break between matches. Our conditioning and mental toughness held up to the test even after we lost the first set. They wanted that win and went out and took it. I hope that we can take that experience with us through the rest of the season.”
In addition to the above trio, Bergan continued to show off her vast improvement in all areas. The sophomore collected 10 kills, seven points from serve, six digs, two aces, and two blocks to push Wheelersburg over the top against an impressive Lady Spartans’ group.
“Mallory Bergan has really started coming up big for us all the way around the last couple of weeks,” Perry said. “When I took over this season, one of the first position moves I made was moving Mallory to the middle hitter position. She had previously been an outside hitter, and I am not sure that she was completely comfortable with the move. However, she went right to work without any complaining and started to learn the position. I saw her athleticism, her height and her impressive reach and knew that she could fill that role for us perfectly. She is getting more and more comfortable with it everyday and is starting to show the potential that we saw from the beginning.”
With the 2-1 outcome, Wheelersburg improved its own record to a 9-1 overall mark. The Lady Pirates will be back in action on Tuesday evening when Wheelersburg plays at Valley (5:30 p.m. start).
Portsmouth 4, Jackson 1
For the third time this season, the Portsmouth Trojans’ girls tennis program capped off another successful day against the Jackson girls tennis squad by obtaining a 4-1 victory on Saturday.
Over the course of the day, Portsmouth wasted no time setting an early tone as Avery Wolfe, Lauren Coleman, Cassidy Bianco, and the doubles duo of Rylee Moorhead and Elysia Copley-Lucas won 48 of the first 52 sets available to take a resounding match victory in an impressive effort. Jaylin Pearsall and Sydney Chabot also showed promising skills in a close three sets to one loss to Jackson’s Madi Richards and Amie Waugh.
Portsmouth was scheduled to host Minford on Monday evening.
No. 1 singles — Avery Wolfe (Portsmouth) def. Emma Matthews (Jackson) 6-0, 6-0
No. 2 singles — Lauren Coleman (Portsmouth) def. Elizabeth Blazer (Jackson) 6-1, 6-0
No. 3 singles — Cassidy Bianco (Portsmouth) def. Racqueal Creamer (Jackson) 6-0, 6-1
No. 1 doubles — Rylee Moorhead/Elysia Copley-Lucas (Portsmouth) def. Caitlin Comp/Trinity Montgomery (Jackson) 6-0, 6-2
No. 2 doubles — Madi Richards/Amie Waugh (Jackson) def. Jaylin Pearsall/Sydney Chabot (Portsmouth) 7-6 (7-5, 4-6, 10-7)
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7