Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
CARROLL — Just 16 teams remain the Division IV tournament field. Two local teams … Notre Dame and South Webster … are a part of that number.
Thursday, both will put their seasons on the line once more and battle for a spot in the Elite Eight. Here’s a look at both Division IV regional semifinal matchups and what you need to know before you make the trip to Bloom-Carroll High School.
Notre Dame (22-3) vs. Newark Catholic (17-6), 6 p.m.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Cassie Schaefer, Notre Dame, setter, No. 1: There’s no doubt that the Titans’ offense runs directly through Schaefer. Earlier this season, the All-Ohioan logged her 2,000th career assist as she now sits at 2,140 in all … 611 this season alone. Schaefer seems to always be in the right place at the right time while making the right decisions. She has plenty of experience in marquee matches and knows how to rally a team around a common goal. She’s the leader.
Sophia Hassel, Notre Dame, outside hitter, No. 15: The ACL injury that kept Hassel sidelined for quite some time seems like ancient history now. The senior has pieced together a superb campaign, totaling 130 kills, 52 aces and 292 digs. While the Titans have multiple others who can put the ball on the floor — Claire Dettwiller, Taylor Schmidt, Ava Hassel, Chloe Delabar, etc. — Sophia Hassel is the engine that keeps the team running. While Schaefer leads by example, Sophia lead vocally, which is imperative at crucial times in matches like these.
Shannon Keck, Newark Catholic, middle hitter, No. 13: Statistically, Keck is the Green Wave’s most feared hitter. The senior is one of four players with 100-plus kills and the only roster member with over 200 … she owns 206. Her 6-foot-3 frame makes her a force to be reckoned with and, if you’re trying to defend NC, you also have to worry about those three other hitters … which means she’s going to get her swings in. Notre Dame would be smart in trying to hit around her. She has a team-high 91 blocks this year.
Brynn Peddicord, Newark Catholic, outside hitter, No. 2: As one of those “other hitters,” Peddicord has 191 kills, 40 aces and a team-high 270 digs. She’s one of six juniors on the team and can hurt an opponent in many different ways. She’s extremely versatile — she’s even listed at three positions on the roster, an outside hitter, an opposite hitter and a defensive specialist.
1. Newark Catholic’s six losses — two to Utica — have come to teams with a combined record of 88-37. The Green Wave finished 10-3 in the Licking County volleyball standings.
2. The Green Wave has won eight state championships with the most recent coming in 2004. The program as an OHSAA record 19 state tournament appearances.
3. Notre Dame has now won four consecutive district titles but have yet to win a regional crown. Last fall, the Titans fell to Portsmouth Clay in a regional final by a 26-24, 27-25, 26-24 final.
South Webster (20-5) vs. Shenandoah (17-7), 7:30 p.m.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Faith Maloney, South Webster, middle hitter, No. 12: Without question, Maloney is the go-to player South Webster looks for when it needs a point on the board. Just a sophomore, Maloney has been more than magnificent this season, totaling a team-high 373 kills alongside 70 aces, 72 blocks and 216 digs. Alongside the aforementioned Schaefer, Maloney was the District 14 Division IV Player of the Year and, if you’ve watched her play, it’s easy to see why. Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time moments. Maloney will have her chances Thursday.
Bri Claxon, South Webster, outside hitter, No. 1: Complimenting Maloney is Claxon, also a sophomore who has helped the Jeeps rise to new heights this fall. During South Webster’s tournament run, Claxon has tallied 22 kills, six aces and 33 digs. With Shenandoah’s defensive game plan more than likely centered around Maloney, Claxon will have the opportunity to step into the limelight. She certainly has the ability to carry the team when called upon.
Raegan Flood, Shenandoah, middle hitter, No. 26: The 5-foot-10 senior can put the ball on the floor with authority as her team-high 416 kills suggests. Flood is in the middle of the Zeps’ offensive game plans and performs well in high-pressure situations. She, of course, also leads the team in blocks with 56 and boasts a team-high 259 digs. If there’s one player’s number that should be circled on South Webster’s bulletin board, it’s Flood’s.
Trysten Smith, Shenandoah, setter, No. 2: Flood doesn’t get as many touches on the ball if not for Smith’s high level of play. The senior leader has 609 assists this year and 1,794 throughout her career. She’s also valuable defensively, totaling 166 digs in 66 sets this season. In the Zeps’ district final win, Smith had 30 assists and eight digs. While Shenandoah’s offense runs through Flood, it starts with Smith. South Webster will have the task of defending both.
1. South Webster’s district championship was the program’s first since 2016. According to the OHSAA, neither team has ever won a regional title.
2. Shenandoah started 0-3 this season, falling to Dover, Indian Valley and Cambridge. In fact, the Zeps didn’t win their first set until Aug. 22, their fourth match.
3. The Jeeps’ five losses — two to undefeated Wheelersburg — have come to teams with a combined record of 82-15.