SOUTH WEBSTER — Graci Claxon’s college choice, and decision to continue her outstanding volleyball career at Mount Vernon Nazarene University, was simply a no-brainer.
It is her parents’ alma mater near their respective home bases near Mount Vernon, and “a lot of my aunts and uncles went to Mount Vernon (Nazarene) too”.
Now, Graci will be the latest Claxon to call MVNU home —and she does so as part of a South Webster “sister act” of sorts.
That’s because Claxon, early last week, officially announced her intention to play college volleyball for the NAIA’s Cougars —located in Mount Vernon and a member of the CrossRoads League.
Claxon — at her signing ceremony last Monday —was flanked by her parents Corey and Darcee Claxon; her four sisters including her twin sister Bri; MVNU women’s volleyball head coach Kendra Mosher; and several family members and her Jeep teammates.
Darcee Claxon, of course, is not only Graci’s mother —but is the highly-successful South Webster High School volleyball head coach, as the Jeeps captured their first-ever regional championship in the sport three months ago.
In the two years prior, they also reached the Division IV regional tournament —including as the Region 15 runner-up in 2020.
Graci’s sister act is a signing on two fronts —for Bri Claxon has already signed to play college basketball at Division II Gannon University in Erie, Pa.
But Graci will join fellow Jeep and standout middle hitter Faith Maloney at MVNU —as Maloney made her college intentions official on the very same sunny SWHS afternoon.
As for Graci, she is simply following family to the Mount Vernon-based institution.
“I already knew about the school because of my mom and dad and my aunts and uncles. But when we were little, my mother (Darcee) took us to one of their volleyball games to make it to the (NAIA) nationals, and we got to play on the court before the match even started. That really sparked my interest, and ever since then, that’s where I wanted to go,” Graci said. “I started going to all the summer camps there, and so that’s where it all started.”
Claxon has been the Jeeps’ libero —and expects to continue to play that position as a Cougar, although maybe not for her freshman campaign.
But Claxon’s key defensive qualities are her digging and passing, and fully anticipates being part of the regular rotation along MVNU’s back row.
While Maloney made first-team all-Ohio in Division IV from the Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association, Claxon claimed Honorable Mention.
As a senior, and according to the website www.maxpreps.com, Claxon partook in 87 sets —and amounted 349 digs with 462 receptions.
She also served up 40 aces on 353 attempts, and only committed 16 service errors.
Her errors were also seldom in passing and receiving —for she only had 33 against that 462 in 2021.
She also set for 50 assists, and constantly drew — largely unnoticed to the public perhaps — postgame praise from her mother and head coach.
Darcee echoed her daughter’s desire to play at MVNU.
“Graci has wanted to play at Mount Vernon ever since she was a little girl. I took them (Graci and Bri) to the (Wright State University) Nutter Center for the state tournament when they were in the fifth grade. They told me they were going to get me back there,” she said. “And sure enough they did.”
Graci has also overcome various injuries, personal sacrifices to play volleyball, and other setbacks.
“To see her live this dream out, for me, is huge,” Darcee said. “She has really dug in and fought for this and made this a goal of hers for a long time. As a mom, there’s nothing more you want for your own kid.”
Graci reflected on her own experiences as a Jeep — deeming it “one of the best experiences of my entire life.”
“It taught me so many lessons, not even just in sports, but just as a person. Then the connections that I made through volleyball, it’s those friendships that will last for a lifetime,” she said. “Faith and I are going to college together, but we’ve been friends since we were little. Going to state (tournament) was special, and it was even more special because I got to share and experience that with my mother and my sisters (Bri and Bella Claxon) and all my friends. Not a lot of people can say that.”
Claxon mentioned Maloney multiple times in terms of “she’s like my sister”.
“It’s Faith. So I think it’s going to be pretty normal. It’s like I’m going up there with one of my sisters and playing volleyball there,” she said.
Darcee described Graci’s and Maloney’s sister-esque relationship, reflecting on a regional championship photograph of the two — boldly bear-hugging each other in massive celebration.
“One of the things Coach (Kendra) Mosher asked is how well do they get along. Honestly, I told her, they are like sisters. They are both bull-headed and will bicker with each other, and Faith is not afraid to tell Graci when she is wrong, and Graci is not afraid to tell Faith something,” said the coach. “I think it’s going to be good for them to have each other there. To lean on each other and have that support, but they are familiar with each other’s play.”
Which, for Graci, will continue as a Cougar —as her college choice was in fact a no-brainer.
Claxon will have to make her decision upon a major, although she said she is leaning towards the avenue of Physical Therapy.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved