SOUTH WEBSTER — Naturally, Mount Vernon Nazarene University is a religious faith-based institution.
So, it only makes sense that the NAIA’s Cougars only enrich their “Faith”.
As in decorated South Webster standout middle hitter Faith Maloney.
That’s because Maloney, the 2021 first-team Division IV all-Ohioan as recognized by the Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association, made her intentions official recently to play college volleyball at MVNU —based in Mount Vernon and a member of the CrossRoads League.
Maloney, standing five feet and 11 inches tall and actually now recognized by the Ohio High School Athletic Association as a state record-holder for service aces over a career with 264, made a four-year and statewide name for herself as a Jeep —amassing 1,312 career kills as the catalyst of the three-time Southeast District Division IV champions.
This season, in her senior campaign and with three standout teammates surnamed “Claxon”, Maloney was the most noteworthy name —for earning first-team all-state and leading the Jeeps to their first-ever regional championship in the sport.
She was flanked at her signing ceremony by her parents Jeremy and Nikki Maloney; veteran South Webster High School volleyball head coach Darcee Claxon; MVNU women’s volleyball head coach Kendra Mosher; her sisters Caitlin and Ali; and several Jeep teammates and friends.
MVNU is also Claxon’s alma mater, as Maloney joins Jeep teammate Graci Claxon with the Cougars —as Claxon and Maloney both signed at the same time on a sunny South Webster end-of-January afternoon.
While Graci’s decision to play at MVNU was an obvious no-brainer, Maloney will play alongside her “sister” there.
The relationship between the Claxons and the Cougars is indeed a family affair, but Maloney visited there with Graci and Graci’s twin sister Bri — who has already signed to play college basketball with Division II Gannon University.
Maloney may have, or may not have, tagged along with the Claxon sisters — but her visit truly began the team-up process there.
“I originally visited Mount Vernon with Graci and Bri because I know their family had gone there, but I really liked the campus and I met the team and played a few open gyms with them. And I really enjoyed playing with them,” said Maloney. “I also went and visited Ohio Northern University and was really in between choosing between the two, but at Mount Vernon, I felt closer with the team. I really like the atmosphere and entire team dynamic of Mount Vernon.”
Maloney, by many, is of course considered a devout and loyal teammate — although the on-floor attack artist but a quiet and pleasant personality off it made arguably the largest impact on the Jeeps.
An all-around indeed efficient, even otherworldly at times, performer —Maloney’s career statistics support her outstanding game.
In 331 career sets played, she did amass 1,312 kills, a .323 hitting percentage, 102 solo blocks, 290 total blocks, and 264 service aces.
As a senior, her attack percentages were by far career-bests — with 379 kills and a 55-percent kill percentage, plus a hitting percentage of .323.
As a team, South Webster went 25-2 — advancing to the Division IV state semifinals with a trailblazing 22-match winning streak, following its only regular-season loss.
Their only setbacks were to two fellow regional champions —Division III Region 11 winner Adena in three sets in the regular season and to Division IV Region 14 winner New Knoxville in four sets in the state semifinals.
Oh, by the way, 27-2 New Knoxville was your 2021 Division IV state champion.
Maloney muscled for 17 kills in that contest, and described her entire experience individually and collectively as a Jeep.
“It’s been amazing and even unreal,” she said. “When we were younger, we always dreamed of accomplishing everything we did and making it to state this year, but to actually get there and do it was just a dream come true.”
As for her own play, she certainly and emphatically spikes the ball in a downward motion —so her opposing front-line rotation best be dodging incoming missiles.
In other words, when that volleyball is coming hard off Maloney’s wrists and hands, it’s highly unlikely to be returned.
Coach Claxon commented on all what Maloney can do.
“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 the coach. “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 needed her to do.”
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,” she said. “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.”
Maloney is indeed excited about playing alongside Graci.
“It feels amazing to be able to play with Graci for four more years,” she said. “It’s not far away from home, but away from home is something I’ve never been before. Having her there is a piece of home I am bringing with me. We’re not rooming together, but she’ll always be there and it’s just nice knowing I have her there and I can rely on her. We’ve known each other since pre-school and she is like a sister to me.”
Maloney has plenty of faith in Claxon, just as the Cougars are now enriched in their “Faith”.
“It’s definitely a different dynamic, but I am very excited about it,” she said. “Nervous but excited. I’ve known South Webster my whole life and I am so comfortable here, but I think it will be better for me to go somewhere further away and live my own life.”
Maloney said she plans to major in Nursing.
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