Jeeps won’t be denied


SW ousts Trimble in regional semi

By Paul Boggs - pboggs@aimmediamidwest.com



South Webster’s rotation of Riley Raynard (6), Skylar Zimmerman (11), Graci Claxon (0), Bri Claxon (1), Natalie Adkins (7) and Bella Claxon (10) celebrate scoring a point.

South Webster’s rotation of Riley Raynard (6), Skylar Zimmerman (11), Graci Claxon (0), Bri Claxon (1), Natalie Adkins (7) and Bella Claxon (10) celebrate scoring a point.


Ed Litteral | Daily Times

South Webster’s Bella Claxon (10) and Faith Maloney (12) go up for a block as teammate Peyton Stamper (3) looks on during the Jeeps’ Division IV regional semifinal volleyball match against Trimble.


Ed Litteral | Daily Times

South Webster seniors Bri Claxon (1) and libero Graci Claxon (0) converge on a Trimble return during Thursday night’s Division IV volleyball regional semifinal match at Bloom-Carroll High School.


Ed Litteral | Daily Times

The South Webster Jeeps immediately celebrate their four-set Division IV regional semifinal volleyball victory over Trimble on Thursday night at Bloom-Carroll High School.


Ed Litteral | Daily Times

CARROLL — Truth be told, although perhaps expected, the South Webster Jeeps simply struggled in putting away the determined Trimble Tomcats on Thursday night.

But, at some point during an epic fourth and final set, the Jeeps just decided they were NOT going to be denied.

Not in this round at least, not after returning to the regional tournament for the third consecutive season, and not if the Jeeps’ senior foursome had ANYTHING to do with it.

Alas, the Jeeps finally finished off the Tomcats in a classic Division IV volleyball regional semifinal inside Bloom-Carroll High School’s rocking Tom Petty Gymnasium —ultimately breaking Trimble’s hearts with a 25-19, 25-19, 22-25 and 25-23 victory.

“This was incredibly hard. Trimble would just not go away and credit to them. Those girls have heart, they have grit, they are super athletic and we knew coming into this it was going to be a dogfight. We knew we had to control our nerves and anxiousness. We’ve been here before, three times now, but how we do get past this? How do we go out there and play with the training that we’ve put in for the last three or four years? How do we go out there and play with the grit and perseverance that we’ve shown all year? We talk about courage and how courage is not about being afraid, but facing the fears that you have and the nerves that you have in walking through those together as a team. And I’ll tell you what, these girls love each other,” said SWHS coach Darcee Claxon. “You won’t find a group of girls that celebrate each other more than this group. These four seniors have been here, and I credit our senior leadership and selflessness. I really think that’s the secret ingredient to our success.”

If that’s indeed the secret to the Jeeps’ success, then it’s out —but so be it.

With Thursday night’s win, the Jeeps are now an incredible 24-1 on the season —having won a staggering 21 consecutive matches following their only loss of the year, which was a three-set sweep at Division III regional finalist Adena.

More importantly, though, they are back in the Division IV regional championship tilt on Saturday —with a rematch against Newark Catholic, the regular regional and state powerhouse which swept Shenandoah (25-14, 25-19 and 25-19) in Thursday’s other regional semifinal at Bloom-Carroll.

For the Tomcats, they end another excellent season as regional semifinalists once again and at 23-3 —with two of their three losses coming against the Jeeps, and the other at Division III regional semifinalist Fort Frye.

South Webster won at Trimble in five thrilling sets on Oct. 11, including 15-12 in the final game, and Coach Claxon knew an equally —if not more so —maximum effort was needed in ousting the Tomcats this time.

And, after a slow start, they got it going —winning the opening two sets by identical 25-19 counts.

The Jeeps then just led by a 7-4 margin in the third game, as the Tomcats survived three lead changes and a half-dozen ties —rallying for a 25-22 triumph and keeping their season alive.

But the Jeeps trailed just once in the back-and-forth and mentally and physically exhausting marathon fourth game, which featured an amazing nine ties —including the final three at 20-20, 21-21 and 22-22.

South Webster led by three points six times —7-4, 8-5, 17-14, 18-15, 19-16 and 20-17 —before the Tomcats took their only lead at 21-20, thanks to two aces by Laikyn Imler, an Imler kill of her team-high 20, and an Adelynn Stevens kill.

But a net violation on the Tomcats tied it at 21-21, with SW senior Bri Claxon coming up with her biggest kill of her match-high 22 —putting the Jeeps in front for good (22-21).

The two teams traded an attack error for a service error, as a Natalie Adkins kill for the Jeeps put the battle at match point.

However, it took Bella Claxon’s kill — catching a Trimble outside hitter out of position beyond the front row following a lengthy volley —to finally send South Webster back to the regional championship bout.

With that clincher, the Jeeps spilled out off the bench to their side of the net —setting off a wild celebration with their frenzied student cheering section.

A year ago, South Webster rolled past Shadyside with a regional semifinal sweep —but topping Trimble again, and in the fashion which it did, probably deserved much more celebrating.

While Bri Claxon torched the Tomcats for 22 kills, Coach Claxon said she “lit up” Faith Maloney midway through that fourth game.

Maloney — the decorated senior standout middle hitter who was Honorable Mention all-Ohio a season ago — maddeningly made it 17-14, 18-15 and 19-16 with three consecutive kills.

She collected 20 total kills, and also added defensively a solo block and three block assists.

“I lit up Faith halfway through that fourth set, and I wasn’t sure she was going to respond. But she had some huge kills coming out after that. And Bri is the vocal leader and she got it together there for us,” said Coach Claxon. “And the common average person isn’t going to see it, but Grace (Graci Claxon) was phenomenal in the back row tonight. Her serve-receive, her defensive pursuit, that’s why we are good as we are.”

Graci Claxon’s ace made it 16-14 in game four, as the senior libero led in digs with 18 —with Bri Claxon and Skylar Zimmerman digging up 15 balls.

Graci Claxon received 42 of 45 balls for a 93-percent accuracy rate, as Bella Claxon chipped in 11 digs, two aces and four blocks assists — and set for 38 assists of the club’s total 42.

As a team, the Jeeps amassed 48 kills and served for six aces, while defensively digging up 72 balls and blocking 11.

The single aces belonged to Bri Claxon, Graci Claxon, Zimmerman and Riley Raynard —the latter of whom served for 16 points.

Speaking of points, the Jeeps poured them on late in the first set and early into the second —after initially trailing by counts of 5-0, 11-5, 12-6 and finally 18-15.

From that 18-15 deficit, South Webster went on a 19-2 run, scoring 10 of the final 11 first-set points —and nine of the opening 10 in tilt two.

The Jeeps’ largest second-set advantage stood at 19-7, as the Tomcats got as close as 24-19 — before a net violation made it 2-0 in favor of South Webster.

“We start slow sometimes like this and I don’t know why. I tell myself not to tear them apart just yet, and give them some time. They seem to find a rhythm, and find a way to settle in and play. That’s been the case all year,” said Coach Claxon. “I’m just trusting what I’ve seen them do time and time again. We know how to not let our emotions overtake us. I think that comes with maturity and experience of being on the big stage. Ever since the Adena match.”

And, ever since that Adena match, the Jeeps haven’t lost.

Hence, there’s no reason to stop now either.

The Jeeps, in fact, get their regional championship rematch with 21-6 Newark Catholic —as the Green Wave won in four sets a year ago.

The winner will advance to the Division IV state semifinals — set for Thursday Nov. 11 at 6 p.m. inside Wright State University’s Nutter Center.

Coach Claxon discussed the keys for a victory over the Green Wave —and thus a state tournament ticket.

“Last year, we started nervous, but in the second game we were on fire. Those things that didn’t go our way we let them get in our heads. But these girls know that nothing dictates our play except us. Nobody controls how you respond but you,” she said. “It’s going to be about how we respond, how we calm our nerves and how we just stay together as a team. I’m really looking forward to the battle.”

South Webster’s rotation of Riley Raynard (6), Skylar Zimmerman (11), Graci Claxon (0), Bri Claxon (1), Natalie Adkins (7) and Bella Claxon (10) celebrate scoring a point.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2021/11/web1_Trimble-SW-VB-Point.jpgSouth Webster’s rotation of Riley Raynard (6), Skylar Zimmerman (11), Graci Claxon (0), Bri Claxon (1), Natalie Adkins (7) and Bella Claxon (10) celebrate scoring a point. Ed Litteral | Daily Times

South Webster’s Bella Claxon (10) and Faith Maloney (12) go up for a block as teammate Peyton Stamper (3) looks on during the Jeeps’ Division IV regional semifinal volleyball match against Trimble.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2021/11/web1_Trimble-SW-Bella-and-Faith.jpgSouth Webster’s Bella Claxon (10) and Faith Maloney (12) go up for a block as teammate Peyton Stamper (3) looks on during the Jeeps’ Division IV regional semifinal volleyball match against Trimble. Ed Litteral | Daily Times

South Webster seniors Bri Claxon (1) and libero Graci Claxon (0) converge on a Trimble return during Thursday night’s Division IV volleyball regional semifinal match at Bloom-Carroll High School.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2021/11/web1_Trimble-SW-Claxons.jpgSouth Webster seniors Bri Claxon (1) and libero Graci Claxon (0) converge on a Trimble return during Thursday night’s Division IV volleyball regional semifinal match at Bloom-Carroll High School. Ed Litteral | Daily Times

The South Webster Jeeps immediately celebrate their four-set Division IV regional semifinal volleyball victory over Trimble on Thursday night at Bloom-Carroll High School.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2021/11/web1_Trimble-SW-VB-Celebration.jpgThe South Webster Jeeps immediately celebrate their four-set Division IV regional semifinal volleyball victory over Trimble on Thursday night at Bloom-Carroll High School. Ed Litteral | Daily Times
SW ousts Trimble in regional semi

By Paul Boggs

pboggs@aimmediamidwest.com

Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at pboggs@aimmediamidwest.com, or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at pboggs@aimmediamidwest.com, or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved