PIKETON — A new venue for the Division IV district volleyball tournament did little to deter the South Webster Lady Jeeps from winning the program’s third straight district championship.
With a strong South Webster crowd and student section making the trip to see the Lady Jeeps in postseason action, they excelled to a 3-0 sweep of Paint Valley inside Piketon High School’s gymnasium.
With the three-set win (25-20, 25-11, 25-13), the top-seeded and state-ranked Jeeps advance to Thursday’s D-IV regional semifinals at Bloom Carroll High School.
“They started a pep club and we loss so much with COVID. We’ve got a strong senior class — they like each other, support each other,” SW coach Darcee Claxon said, of their community support. “That’s one of the special things about South Webster — they want to see each other succeed. Our community, student body, it’s like an extra player for us. We definitely appreciate their support.”
South Webster took a 13-11 lead over Paint Valley into the first timeout of the first set, and never trailed in the remainder of the game past the 20th point of each set.
With commanding 25-11 and 25-13 wins in the second and third sets, Coach Claxon said she felt her team did a great job of settling in and taking control of the contest.
“After those first five or six points we settled in. Even through midway through that first game I felt like we took over and didn’t look back,” she said. “That second and third set, they were primed, ready to go and had their confidence.”
Senior Bri Claxon led the Jeeps with a team-high 23 kills, senior Faith Maloney posted 18 kills, and senior Rylee McGraw and junior Natalie Adkins had four kills apiece.
Sophomore Bella Claxon — who finished with 44 assists — and Maloney had two total blocks, while Adkins and McGraw each had a block as well.
South Webster as a team posted 74 digs on the defensive end, led by Bri Claxon’s 16, Peyton Stamper and Bella Claxon’s 14 each, Skylar Zimmerman’s 13, and Grace Claxon’s 10.
“This group, we knew they were special. There’s such a strong core of athleticism and camaraderie. They love each other, they celebrate each other’s accolades — that’s a recipe for success and we’re seeing that now,” Coach Claxon said. “They put in the hard work, working all summer and we’re seeing the pay off of it.”
The next step in the Jeeps’ journey is a trip to Bloom-Carroll High School to face fellow Southeast District champion Trimble, which defeated Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division rival Southern 3-0 (25-11, 25-15, 25-21) in the second D-IV district title game at Piketon.
The pair of Southeast District powers met in Glouster on Oct. 11 — a game that saw the Lady Jeeps win in five sets (25-19, 15-25, 25-17, 17-25, 15-12) in a tough road environment as part of their 20-game winning streak.
“The last time we played Trimble it was a marathon, a hostile environment. I wouldn’t say we played our best volleyball and that’s a credit to Trimble,” Claxon said. “But we were able to figure out a way to put together scores, make defensive plays, serve aggressively and find a way to win. You’re playing the best of the best at this point and it’s going to be about heart and grit.”
The Jeeps and Tomcats will meet in the second D-IV regional semifinal to be played at Bloom-Carroll beginning at approximately 7:30 p.m., following the conclusion of Newark Catholic and Shenandoah’s D-IV regional semi, which will begin at 6 p.m.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved