Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — After Saturday’s win, South Webster junior Faith Maloney pointed out a built-in advantage within the Jeeps’ volleyball program … each other.
Day in and day out, South Webster gets to practice against itself.
If you’ve seen the team play this season, that statement alone points to the root of its success.
“We get really competitive and I think that just makes us better as players,” Maloney said. “If one of us gets a block, the other just wants to hit it harder.”
South Webster’s fiery competitiveness shone through in a Division IV district final against Notre Dame. The Jeeps swept the Titans by a 25-8, 25-17, 25-15 final to claim their second consecutive district crown.
“Notre Dame is a great team,” senior Gwen Messer said. “But I think we just came out really hard and didn’t let up at all. We worked together really well today.”
After Maloney gave the Jeeps (22-1) a 2-1 lead in the first set, they never looked back. Messer made it a 9-2 ballgame before Maloney served an ace to push the lead to 11-2. Maloney’s service stint eventually led to a 16-2 edge before she ended the set with a kill, sealing a 25-8 win.
The Titans (18-5) fought back in the second behind strong serving from Ava Hassel.
South Webster took a 7-6 lead and parlayed it into a 21-10 advantage after three straight aces from Graci Claxon. But with Hassel at the service line, Notre Dame managed to trim the lead to 22-15. But that wasn’t enough as the Jeeps settled, seizing a 25-17 win.
The third was never really close.
South Webster opened things with an 8-2 run before taking leads of 12-6, 15-10 and 22-14 en route to a 25-15 match-clinching victory, one that was capped by a Maloney kill.
“We knew coming into today that we were going to have to play our game,” Maloney said. “We couldn’t come in with nerves. I think we did that pretty well and came out really strong. We tend to struggle in the second set, but we ended up pulling through and playing really well after that.”
The loss forces Notre Dame to say goodbye to a talented senior class that includes Hassel, Claire Dettwiller and Chloe Delabar.
Meanwhile, South Webster looks ahead to a matchup with Shadyside in a Division IV regional semifinal at 8 p.m., Thursday at New Lexington High School.
“We need to not make our mistakes early,” Maloney said. “Sometimes we do that and dig ourselves a hole. But I feel like if we come out strong and don’t make dumb mistakes, we’ll be OK.”
They’ll be facing an opponent that comes in at 22-2 with losses to Fort Frye and Wheeling Linsly (W. Va.). The Tigers were a five-set winner over Tuscarawas Central Catholic on Saturday, winning 20-25, 18-25, 25-20, 25-17 and 15-10.
“We have to come out with a lot of energy and can’t let the ball hit the floor,” Messer said. “This is a great feeling. I have the best teammates and I love being a part of this team. I’m going to miss this when I graduate.”