SOUTH WEBSTER — You can have all the talent in the world, but without a work ethic, you don’t have much.
That’s the way South Webster coach Darcee Claxon views things at least and, in her defense, that philosophy has worked out just fine for the Jeeps this season.
Sure, it’s early. But in four matches, Claxon’s crew sits at 3-1 with wins over Valley, Waverly and Portsmouth. In those three victories, not only have the Jeeps displayed athleticism … they’ve also shown scrappiness, a willingness to sell out for any loose ball and a “refuse to lose” attitude.
“We’ve been working on is consistency in our performances. I think, so far, we’ve done pretty well with that,” Claxon said. “Nobody cares who gets the glory and that’s a huge thing for us. We’re here with the common goal of being successful.”
One look at South Webster’s roster and you’ll notice they’re jam-packed with youth. The Jeeps have just one senior and three juniors while boasting of four sophomores and a freshman.
Sometimes, youth can be a negative. The adjustment players have to make from the middle school level to the speed of the varsity game can be tough to master.
But for South Webster, so far, that hasn’t been a problem.
“Youth is something we were pretty unsure of. We’re pretty young, so you never know night to night. But our kids have really stepped up. They want to win and they’re competitive by nature,” Claxon said. “For us, we knew that we were going to have the athletes. Being a small school, sometimes you’re incomplete or you’re short an athlete here or there. But we’re pretty complete in all of our positions.”
In 13 sets, freshman Natalie Adkins, sophomores Graciana Claxon, Bri Claxon, Rylee McGraw and Faith Maloney, juniors Kendall Bender, Liz Shupert, Gwen Messer, and senior Mack Keller have been the leaders of the team.
Out of that group, you may notice Maloney’s name the most. She’s posted a team-high 49 kills alongside eight aces, eight blocks and 38 digs this fall.
At one time, she didn’t even like volleyball. Now, she’s the player her teammates look to in must-win situations.
“Faith has God-given talent and that’s number one. When she was in middle school, she didn’t like volleyball and didn’t want to play. I said, ‘You’re tall, you’re playing. This isn’t even an option,” Claxon said, smiling. “The minute she started playing, she fell in love with the game. She plays club in SOVC now and she’s just a very high-level player. We expect a lot from her.”
With Maloney leading the way, and a cast of able names behind her, the Jeeps have their affairs in order. They know what they want and know how to get it. Now, it’s simply about execution.
“I think that our season is all in how we’re able to execute,” Claxon said. “It’s the confidence, it’s really owning what they have worked for. These kids have been in the gym all summer long. Now, they need to go out on the floor and own that. That’s what we’re working towards.”
South Webster’s next test is a tough one. The Jeeps will travel to Wheelersburg to try and fend off the reigning SOC II champs Tuesday evening. While a conference title would be nice in the end, for now, Claxon’s girls are staying within themselves and controlling what they can control.
“Our goals are performance-based,” Claxon said. “We want to be offensively aggressive but we also want to be consistent. We know that, in order to be successful, we have to communicate. Sometimes, that’s not easy for us. And, then of course, pursuit. We want to make sure we’re hustling after every ball and not letting it hit the floor. Those are the things we’ve set out to do.”
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