An incredible night for two Scioto County volleyball powerhouses as the Clay Lady Panthers and the Notre Dame Lady Titans were able to win their regional semifinals games to set up what will be, if not already is, one of the biggest volleyball matches in Scioto County history.
Notre Dame 3, Fort Frye 0
In the first matchup of Wednesday night’s double header at Lancaster High School, just southeast of Columbus, the Lady Titans came out of the gate playing some of their best volleyball that they have this season. Even head coach Kelsey Glockner was wildly impressed with how her team played in their straight set victory over the Lady Cadets (25-21, 16, 17).
“One thousand percent: the team chemistry, defense getting the ball to the offense, the offense being able to swing, Cassie (Schaefer) getting called on some things but still making the best decision so that the hitters could still get a hand on the ball, adjusting to the defense we’ve been working on all week to match the scouting report we had on them” said Glockner, “Everything we needed to do to win this game, I would say 96% of that showed up today. Very minimal errors, very minimal points given to them. That was our goal was to control our side of the court and be able to make sure we got the ball to our hitters.”
The first set started out very back and forth as both teams attempted to settle in from their opening nerves. Later in the set, Glockner used her first timeout as the Lady Titans trailed Fort Frye 19-17. But as this team has shown all season, they weren’t afraid to back down from the moment and proceeded to score eight of the final eleven points down the stretch to take a first set victory, 25-22.
The second set again started out a little back and forth, but Notre Dame quickly settled in and started playing to their advantages. After a lead of 10-8 early in the second set, the Lady Titans extended their lead to ultimately win the second set 25-16.
Glockner said she knows how important it is for her team to be playing their best volleyball at this stage in the season. “We’ve been working so hard this season, game by game” said Glockner, “We go opponent by opponent, don’t look ahead, get a scouting report, have a scouting practice, we figure it out, change defenses. You can do all those things, but the girls have to choose to do it. The way that they are completely checked in selflessly, to do whatever I tell them to do, to tell them to get the ball to whoever needs the ball, it’s everything you pray for in a team how selfless they are.”
Notre Dame would continue on their tear into the third set by taking a lead of 19-14 in the latter stages of the set. With Fort Frye’s backs against the wall, the Lady Titans showed no mercy and were able to rattle off six of the last nine points to take the third set 25-17 and the match 3-0 in straight sets to advance to the regional championship.
Notre Dame advances on to the regional championship Saturday afternoon where they will meet the Clay Lady Panthers for the third time this season. For Glockner, if her team plays like she know they can, it won’t matter what team is on the other side of the net with a spot in the state semifinals on the line. “They’re both fabulous teams, they do different things better” said Glockner, “We’re just going to go out here and scout and see what we can do to control our side of the court. When you get to this level, you look for there to be these two or three point games. You look for there to be points earned. It’s all about how you can control what’s going on with your team, and that’s what we’re going to focus on and what we need to do based on who we’ll face Saturday. It’s a huge goal for our girls to get there, and someone’s going to have to take it from them.”
Clay 3, Fairfield Christian 2
The second game of the night’s double header had a much, much different tone to it than the first. The Clay Lady Panthers never gave up once they trailed 2-0 heading into their third set as they were able to rattle off the last three sets to take a 3-2 match victory (16-25, 15-25, 25-21, 26-24, 15-13) and set up a date with Notre Dame in the regional championship.
“Fairfield Christian is such a good team” said Clay head coach Sarah Hammond following her team’s come from behind victory Wednesday night, “They’re so smooth and they’re so good with ball placement, they just made it look so easy in game one and two. I told my team that we’re just as good as they were, to not give up and to keep fighting. They came out after that and fought three hard battles.”
From the scores, you can probably tell that the Lady Panthers didn’t play their best volleyball in the first two sets. Some mistakes hampered Clay, but also the fact that Fairfield Christian looked incredible in the first two sets, taking both by scores of 25-16, 15 to take a 2-0 match lead. The frustration among the team was evident, but this group, led by their seven seniors, never gave up with their backs against the wall.
“I think we just started with nerves” said Hammond, “They were on top of the ball, everything started going their way. We just started second guessing ourselves, and that first loss gets in your head and it transitions into game two. Thank God we are good enough volleyball players that we were tough enough to pull out of that and not let that beat us and to come back and win three in a row.”
As Hammond mentioned, down to their final life in the regional semifinals, it was almost as if a switch flipped inside the Lady Panthers heads’. Tooth and nail for every single point, the Lady Panthers were able to win the third set 25-21 in the way that each point from there on out would prove to be: in dramatic fashion.
The fourth set of the semifinal matchup just so happened to be the most dramatic of the night. Clay led in the latter stages 20-19 but would give up five out of six points to Fairfield Christian to put them at a 24-21 deficit and down to their last point potentially of their season. But, as they did all night and have throughout the season, the Lady Panthers pulled through. Facing a three point margin, Clay went on to score the final five points of the set to win the fourth 26-24 thanks to a few mistakes from the Lady Knights, and overall solid offensive play from everyone on the Lady Panthers side of the court.
With things evened up at 2-2, the first team to fifteen points would earn a spot in the regional finals where they would face Notre Dame Saturday afternoon. In fitting fashion, Clay steadily controlled the fifth and final set, allowing district and SOC I player of the year Jensen Warnock to give her team the final kill in route to a 15-13 fifth set victory and an incredible 3-2 come from behind match victory.
Warnock led the Lady Panthers with a team high 28 kills along with fellow seniors Delanie Gilliland having 16 and Taylor Lewis having 15 to lead their team. Senior setter Lila Brown had a team high 55 assists while senior Skylar Artis had a team high 21 digs. Jaelyn Warnock led
Clay with 4 solo blocks while senior libero Shaelyn Vassar had a team high 36 service receptions.
“No matter how Saturday’s match goes” said Hammond looking forward to Clay/Notre Dame part III, “That just shows you how good Scioto County volleyball is. Two great teams, SOC I, Division IV all the way up here battling for a spot to go to the state tournament.”
Clay/Notre Dame Part III
Man, this is going to be a fun one. If only there were some way to move this game to Scioto County, it would be fill the stands of any gym big enough to hold all the people that would want to see it played. Two programs rich with winning traditions over the past few seasons, but neither of which have reached the state semifinals. That is exactly what will be on the line Saturday afternoon, a chance to be one of the final four teams in Division IV.
This will either be the last match for the seven Clay seniors or the three Notre Dame seniors, and it’s honestly a shame that one of these two great teams has to go home because they have both been incredible stories and a ton of fun to watch over the course of this season.
The first time these two met up was at Notre Dame’s home court on September 4th, almost two months prior to Saturday’s matchup. The Lady Panthers won that first matchup in straight sets 3-0 (25-23, 26-24, and 25-21).
The Lady Titans would remember what happened on their home court and would go on to steal a road win from Clay in the two teams second matchup on the season on September 27th. Notre Dame won that game in four sets at Clay 3-1 (25-23, 17-25, 25-23, 25-22) to even the season series between the two at 1-1.
On Saturday afternoon, one team will walk away as regional champions with a berth to the state semifinals in Dayton, and one team will walk away as regional runners up. It’s a shame that one of these teams has to lose, but what more could you ask for in maybe the biggest volleyball game in Scioto County history?
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT