SOUTH WEBSTER — Two years ago, and even still to this day, Faith Maloney —by her own admittance —still shows some shyness, normal of any ordinary high school teenager.
But, no doubt, Maloney is lethal with a volleyball spike —and indeed opponents best be getting themselves out of harm’s way.
This past weekend on both Saturday AND Sunday, and rightfully so, the South Webster senior standout made history on the team and individual fronts —for the Jeeps captured their first regional championship in the sport, and the six-foot tall Maloney made first-team all-Ohio in Division IV.
On Saturday, Maloney and the Jeeps swept Newark Catholic to avenge last season’s regional championship defeat —and advance to the Division IV state semifinals, set for Thursday at 6 p.m. inside Wright State University’s Nutter Center.
On Sunday, the Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association released its all-Ohio teams —and Maloney made the Division IV first-team unit.
She was an Honorable Mention selection a season ago, but with the talented and highly-touted Jeeps just mowing down the opposition this season —then it was a no-brainer that Maloney make that first team.
South Webster, which plays 25-2 and Region 14 champion New Knoxville in Thursday’s second state semifinal, enters at 25-1 —and on a trailblazing 22-match winning streak following its only loss of the season, which was a three-set but hard-fought sweep at Division III Region 11 champion Adena.
Of course, Maloney — an on-floor attack artist but a quiet and pleasant personality off it —makes arguably the largest impact on the Jeeps.
“Faith is super-skilled, she has a lot of God-given ability, she jumps well, she moves laterally well, she elevates, she is tall, she is agile, and she has a lot of natural power to her game. All of those things are definitely in her favor,” said veteran SWHS head coach Darcee Claxon. “And she has just really worked to develop herself into an excellent volleyball player. Each year, we’ve seen her get better and better. Her finesse, her development of her shot selection, she blocks the ball well and serves the ball well. She just does all the things we need her to do.”
An all-around indeed efficient, even otherworldly at times, performer —Maloney’s career statistics support her impactful game.
In 327 career sets played, she has amassed 1,295 kills, a .317 hitting percentage, 102 solo blocks, 290 total blocks, and 263 service aces.
She has also racked up, perhaps surprisingly given her front-row dominance, 704 career digs —along with 40 assists.
As a senior, her attack percentages are by far career-bests — with 362 kills and a 55-percent kill percentage, plus a hitting percentage of .462.
In an interview on Wednesday with The Portsmouth Daily Times, she described her experience as “unreal”.
That would be both in terms of team and individual accolades.
“I knew our team could do it, but now that it’s actually here, it’s insane. We’ve always dreamed as kids that we as a senior class could make it to state. But now that we’re here and how our community has supported us through everything, it’s crazy. Awards like all-Ohio, I don’t really take it too much for myself,” said Maloney. “I’m more proud of our team making it to state than I am anything like that.”
Claxon concurred with Maloney’s mental approach —given that is her makeup of being a big sister, or maybe mother hen, to her Jeep teammates.
Simply put, you mess with one Jeep —you gotta deal with Maloney’s wrath.
“I’ve said this time and time again, but these girls are great teammates to each other. None of them are about themselves. They take every chance to praise their teammates. Faith’s one of those kids. She will get mad at herself, but if somebody does anything to one of her teammates, I’m telling you what, you will see a beast emerge from that kid. You just don’t mess with her teammates,” said the coach. “You can say anything you want to her, and it doesn’t bother her. But if you say something to her teammates, then it’s a whole another kid.”
Speaking of unleashing a beast, Maloney is just that — when killing balls off Bella Claxon assists.
She said she has overcome some of her shyness, thus a more fiery floor player —playing with much less self-imposed pressure.
Maloney especially credits her three senior teammates — Bri Claxon, Graci Claxon and Rylee McGraw.
“I still am a little shy, but Bri, Grace and Rylee really keep me in check and also have helped me become a leader. They really bring out my personality,” she said. “We’ve been best friends since kindergarten. We’ve always dreamed of getting this far in volleyball, and we’re so close that we would do anything for each other. Getting to a place like this for each other, it’s awesome.”
She has also improved in developing the physical aspects of her game.
“It’s just going in the gym every time and working hard. Knowing that I need to be better, not only for myself to achieve more goals, but for my team,” said Maloney. “I know if I am better, and I go in and work hard and become more consistent and am able to raise my game, it will help my team in the long run.”
Coach Claxon said Maloney’s memorable senior season, and enjoyable tournament experience, has been made possible —in part —to the other Jeeps just stepping up their games, and Maloney’s recent decision to verbally commit to Mount Vernon Nazarene University.
“I think that decision on college was a big weight off her shoulders. But Faith is just a great kid. You can’t ask for much more from her,” said the coach. “I am glad she is really enjoying this latter part of her senior year.”
Maloney agreed, and expressed confidence from first serve in August to the present day — about the Jeeps’ opportunity of advancing to the state tournament.
To her, that means the most —as it also means the opposing club could best serve itself by getting out of harm’s way.
“This year, I felt from the beginning being very confident about making it here. And now we are,” said Maloney. “As long as we stay together and play together as a team, we can do anything, and that includes win it all this weekend.”
Maloney was joined on the OHSVCA Division IV all-Ohio list by Graci Claxon —who made Honorable Mention.
Wheelersburg senior middle blocker Ryleigh Meeker, who led the Pirates to a runner-up effort behind champion South Webster in the Southern Ohio Conference Division II race and claimed one of three Division III Southeast District championships, made the second-team group.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved