Whether it’s in the workplace or in everyday life, it takes a team effort in order to not only achieve the goals that we hope to obtain, but to get the maximum amount out of said effort.
On Saturday afternoon, the Minford Falcons’ volleyball program showed what it can do when it plays a complete game, as Minford recovered from a season-opening loss to Ironton in the best way possible by defeating the Lady Tigers on their home floor, 3-0 (25-18, 27-25, 25-20) in a Division III Sectional Final affair in Ironton on Saturday afternoon.
For Rachael Stapleton, her team couldn’t have picked a better time to play their best volleyball of 2017.
“I believe it’s the first time all year that our team played well, and played well together,” Stapleton said. “The girls really played hard, and Zoe Doll came up with several great digs that were extra-effort type saves. We also fed our middle hitters, and that was big for us.”
After being blanked by Ironton over the first four volleys of the match, Stapleton called a timeout to regroup the Lady Falcons. Ironton would score the next two points following the timeout, but from there, the match proved to be all Minford.
“We’ve really been working hard to play together and utilize the strengths that we have,” Stapleton said. “We started out very slow. I believe that we were down 6-0 in the first set. We had a timeout at the fourth point, and after Ironton got two additional points to push the lead to that 6-0 margin, we started to come back a little bit. However, it was when we were down 13-11 where we really took off. The girls really responded, and were enjoying some of the success. The crowd was into it, and the kids were playing hard, so it really turned around for us.”
Leading the charge for the Lady Falcons was the strong combination of Ashley Blankenship and Ally Coriell. The pair, who are of junior and freshman eligibility, respectively, used their long frames — 6-3 and 6-0, respectively — to frustrate Ironton from a hitting standpoint as the Lady Tigers, instead of going over top of the pair, had to place their shots around the duo with both players getting back into defensive position quickly after their respective attack attempts. The pair also had additional help from Mackenzie Watters, a sophomore who also brings solid length to the table.
“Ashley was an animal at the net,” Stapleton said. “She played extremely well. Everybody was covering where they needed to be, and Ally played very well on the backside. We got a lot of hustle out of everybody, and things definitely went our way. Utilizing Ashley and Ally in the middle is a big advantage, especially from an offensive standpoint, but defensively, they were both getting into position as far as the blocking game is concerned. They’re a deterrent just with their size, and because of that, it seemed like Ironton was trying to go around us, which caused them to be a bit off on their game. Mackenzie Watters came up on the outside and helped to double block there, and I believe that made a difference as well.”
Blankenship, in general, proved to be a tall task for Ironton to handle. The multi-sport athlete, who also plays basketball during the winter months for Minford, obtained 14 kills on a .289 attack percentage, accumulated just three attack errors on 38 attempts, and collected two solo blocks to go along with two assisted blocks for the match.
“We’ve been working on Ashley’s consistency,” Stapleton said. “She has the ability. Sometimes, she just has a hard time getting to where she’s supposed to be on the floor, and with overall rotation as far as getting lost in transition is concerned. Everything just seemed to be really on for her on Saturday.”
With the victory, Minford will get to play Albany Alexander on Thursday evening at 7 p.m. in a Division III, Waverly III District Semifinal for the right to advance to the Waverly III District Finals on Saturday at 4 p.m. Alexander defeated Wellston, 3-0 (25-13, 25-15, 25-16) to advance to the district semifinal round.
“We’ve been preparing for (Albany Alexander) all week, just trying to get ready,” Stapleton said. “At this point, we have nothing to lose. We just need to play like we can play, and see where it goes.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7