DAYTON — The best season in South Webster volleyball history came to an end on Thursday, but not without a fight at Wright State University.
Trailing Region 14 champion New Knoxville 2-0 entering the third set of their four-set defeat (25-21, 25-14, 14-25, 25-20) in the Division IV state semifinals, Lady Jeeps coach Darcee Claxon challenged her historic team one more time.
“I told them as competitors, you’re not going to forget this if this is how you continue to play. We wanted them to make them earn it and we came out on fire,” Claxon said, “As a coach, I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
South Webster got back into the game with an impressive third-set victory, scoring 11 straight points and leading by as many as 12 points (21-9) — thus forcing a fourth set with a 25-14 win.
“We were in that game, we didn’t want to get swept or anything. We knew that could be our last set playing so we wanted to give it our all,” Bri Claxon said.
“Third set I felt like we were more confident and really relied on each other, played as hard as we could until the end,” Faith Maloney said.
New Knoxville won the first set 25-21 in a game that featured eight ties and three lead changes, scoring five of the last six set points to jump out to a 1-0 lead.
The fourth set played tight much like the first, and similarly, saw the Rangers win to seal their 3-1 victory — and advance to the second state championship game in their program’s history.
“They held their own, they competed, they made me and all of us proud. They responded. I’d love to seem them get to play, but hats off to New Knoxville,” Darcee Claxon said. “They’re a great team and I wish them nothing but the best.”
New Knoxville senior Carsyn Henschen — an NCAA Division I commit to Duquesne University — had a game-best 30 kills, and was at one point on pace to break the Division IV state tournament record for kills in a three-set match.
Her sister, Avery Henschen, had 16 kills as part of their team’s total of 59.
“I think so. We’ve faced some good teams, but she’s probably the best played we’ve faced,” Darcee Claxon said, of Carsyn Henschen.
No records were broken, however, as South Webster’s fiery third set put those chances at bay.
Maloney had 17 kills and Bri Claxon totaled 16 to lead the Lady Jeeps’ offensively at the net.
Rylee McGraw and Skylar Zimmerman had four kills apiece, while Natalie Adkins and Bella Claxon each had three.
Bella Claxon totaled 38 assists as the Lady Jeeps’ setter, while NK all-Ohio first-team senior setter Ellie Gabel had 51 assists.
South Webster had 66 digs as a team, as Bri Claxon’s 16 and Grace Claxon’s 14 led the way defensively.
New Knoxville will play for the program’s first state championship versus a D-IV state powerhouse in St. Henry, winners of seven volleyball state titles in program history.
The two are MAC opponents during the regular season — and will meet for the second time on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the D-IV championship match.
South Webster will graduate four seniors from its best team in school history — including all-Ohio performers Maloney (first-team) and Grace Claxon (Honorable Mention), as well as Bri Claxon and Rylee McGraw.
“I’m proud of this team, this program, what they’ve accomplished this year. I’d pick these girls any day of the week and twice on Sunday,” Darcee Claxon said.
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