DAYTON – It was a tough loss for the Clay Lady Panthers in the school’s first ever state semifinals appearance at Wright State University’s Nutter Center as they fell to Tiffin Calvert 3-0 (25-10, 13, 16) Thursday morning.
Things looked promising in the first set as the Lady Panthers had an 8-7 lead in the early goings. However, the Senecas started making plays and Clay setter Lila Brown was called for a few setting errors, forcing Clay head coach Sarah Hammond to use her first timeout of the set. Out of the timeout, it seemed as if the Lady Panthers were unable to get their groove back following a few more perceived setting errors by the first official standing on the platform above the net. Tiffin Calvert went on to score eighteen of the final twenty set points to take the first set over Clay 25-10.
“We were leading the ball game and she (Lila Brown) hasn’t had a setting error probably all year” said Hammond in the Lady Panthers post-game press conference, “After it felt like ten in a row, I didn’t feel like it was fairly called at all.”
Calvert came out from their big first set victory looking to duplicate their success in the second. After falling behind early at points of 13-8 and 18-10, the Lady Panthers ultimately dropped the second set by a score of 25-13 to take a 2-0 match deficit heading into the third set.
Needing some life going into the third set, Hammond tried instilling some fire and motivation into her team. Clay fell behind early at 12-5 forcing Hammond to use another timeout, but following the timeout, her team responded. The Lady Panthers were able to cut their deficit to just two set points at 16-14, but Calvert proved to be too much to handle as they went on to score nine of the last eleven points to take the third and final set from the Lady Panthers by a score of 25-16 to win the match in straight sets 3-0 and advance to the state championship game Saturday morning.
Leading the Lady Panthers statistically in their state semifinals match from the net were seniors Delanie Gilliland and district player of the year and second team All-Ohio player Jensen Warnock who each had seven kills. Senior hitter Taylor Lewis was not far behind those two with six kills herself. Although she was called for setting errors that Hammond believes altered their momentum that first set, senior setter Lila Brown ended the match with 22 assists and a total of six setting errors. Senior defender Skylar Artis and senior libero Shaelyn Vassar led Clay defensively in digs with seventeen and eighteen respectively.
“We’re super proud of all seven of our seniors” said Hammond when referring to Gilliland, Warnock, Lewis, Brown, Artis, Vassar, and Abbey Ware, “Best class I could have ever asked for from a first year head coach. They’ll be severely missed, and I hope they come back and help me out.”
The entire Clay team, although they fell in their final match, should be extremely proud of the will and determination the showed to win the school and county’s first ever regional championship and earn the opportunity to play for a state championship appearance at Wright State. They have laid the ground work for future teams to follow in their footsteps, and the trajectory of volleyball in Scioto County and Southern Ohio has never been higher.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT