Clay Archer, Contributor
JACKSON — From the beginning of the season, South Webster has been on a mission.
After finishing the 2018 season with a loss to Piketon in a sectional semifinal, the Jeeps have had a chip on their shoulder. This fall, they’ve played like they had something to prove each and every night.
Saturday evening, it all came to a climax.
In a Division IV district championship, the Jeeps (20-5) ousted Waterford in four sets by a 25-19, 22-25, 25-23, 25-15 final … claiming their first district crown since 2016.
“It feels great, easily put,” South Webster coach Darcee Claxon said. “Going in, we were a little bit nervous and you could tell that in the opening set. But to see such a young group, none of these kids have ever played at this level, be able to fight through the nerves, it’s awesome.”
Fittingly, sophomore Faith Maloney was the ring leader of South Webster’s attack. The athletic hitter tallied a game-high 24 kills alongside 10 digs defensively.
PHOTOS: Images from South Webster’s four-set win over Waterford in a Division IV district championship
“This feels great. I’m happy our team pulled together for our seniors,” Maloney said. “Waterford was good. They battled. But we just had to fight back when we were down. We did that.”
The first set was neck-and-neck until late. The Jeeps and Wildcats played to ties at 7,14 and 17 before South Webster finally created separation with a 6-2 run before winning 25-19.
Waterford, needing a win desperately, jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the second and never looked back. The Wildcats never trailed, building leads of 13-8 and 19-16 en route to a 25-22 win.
With the match tied 1-1, the Wildcats used momentum gained to take a 15-11 lead in the third. But the Jeeps went on a 6-0 run to take their first lead at 17-15. Waterford countered with a 6-2 run, going ahead 21-19, but South Webster was defiant, closing the sequence on a 6-2 run of its own to win 25-23.
With Waterford leading 14-12 in the fourth, the Jeeps ripped off an 8-1 run to go ahead 20-15. The Wildcats never scored again as South Webster extended the run to 13-1 and won 25-15.
Statistically, following Maloney, Bri Claxon finished with nine kills, two blocks and 11 digs. Graci Claxon also helped out with 17 digs and 24 assists, Gwen Messer logged seven kills, a team-high 18 digs, and Kendall Bender had four aces, 10 digs and 15 assists.
South Webster advances to a Division IV regional semifinal, where it’ll face Shenandoah at 7:30 p.m., Thursday at Bloom-Carroll High School. The Zeps are 17-7 overall after a sweep of Shadyside on Saturday.
“I think this gives us momentum working towards the next game,” Maloney said. “We just have to play as a team.”