Going into Thursday’s volleyball action, there were three teams still in contention to win either a share of the Frontier Athletic Conference title or win it outright.
Washington, Miami Trace and Chillicothe each had two conference losses going into play.
It was rivalry night in the FAC and Miami Trace came to town to take on the Lady Lions.
Playing your closest rivals and going for a conference championship at the same time only heightened the atmosphere in the Washington High School gymnasium.
A large crowd took up the biggest portion of the bleachers that were employed on one side of the gym.
Miami Trace had a very strong start, then withstood a comeback bid by Washington and a very close fourth set to post a 3-1 victory.
Scores of the sets were: 25-11, 25-17, 19-25 and 25-21.
It is the first league championship in volleyball for Miami Trace. The sport has been played at the high school level in Ohio since the 1970s.
Chillicothe defeated Jackson Thursday night to improve to 7-2. They will play at Washington (6-3) Saturday with the reserve game starting at 9 a.m.
“The fourth game was kind of what we thought might happen the whole night,” Miami Trace head coach Doug Mace said. “We were playing for a league championship and also playing our big rival. That was a big game for both teams.
“Both schools had a lot of kids here, cheering the teams on,” Mace said. “That’s exciting for the players. The kids stepped up and played really well. This is something they are going to remember for a long time.
“That’s (Miami Trace’s) first title,” Mace said. “That’s the first time we’ve played for a championship. (Miami Trace) has won some Sectional tournaments, but they’ve never won a league championship. When we played Chillicothe, we struggled with the pressure. We came in here tonight with the same type of pressure on the line and they rose to the occasion and that was cool to see.
“I can honestly say that tonight was a true team win,” Mace said. “All the kids worked hard last night at practice to be ready for tonight.”
Miami Trace went 4-18 overall and 3-7 in the FAC last year and a year later they are at least FAC co-champions. If Washington defeats Chillicothe Saturday, Miami Trace would be outright FAC champions.
“We talked to them at the end of the season last year and we said, ‘here are the things we have to get better at and to do that these are the things you’re going to have to do. You can’t wait until the season starts, you’re going to have to do it in the off-season.’ The kids worked hard and it paid off. We’re very fortunate.”
“Doug did a good job,” Washington head coach Ashley DeAtley said. “Miami Trace came out and they were ready to go. We knew it was going to be a really big battle. We came out too focused in the first and second (sets). We completely took ourselves out of the game. We weren’t trusting each other and we were trying to do too much.
“I told them before the third game, ‘you’ve got to roll with this and you’ve got to figure out a way to win,’” DeAtley said. “Our girls wanted it, but, when you play so wound up, it gets you out of your game. We came out with fire in the third game.
“In the fourth game, I felt we still had the momentum, but Trace was able to put some things together that we weren’t,” DeAtley said. “There were some balls that, defensively, we weren’t in the right spots. They served tough at us and they never gave up.
“It was a good atmosphere tonight,” DeAtley said. “It was wonderful to be here and have the community supporting us and having a good rivalry game. Hats off to Miami Trace, they came to play and they deserved that win. They earned it. I wish them the best of luck coming up.”
Miami Trace took an 8-2 lead in the first set and kept a lead of six or seven points before going on to capture the first set.
In the second set, Washington served first and took a 1-0 lead, its first lead of the match.
The Lady Lions took an 8-2 lead, prompting a time out by Miami Trace.
At that point, the Lady Panthers began closing the gap until the set was tied, 11-11.
Following a time out by Washington, Miami Trace took the lead, 12-11. The set was tied, 12-12 before Miami Trace began to slowly edge ahead. Washington pulled back to within two points, 17-15, but Miami Trace was able to hold on to the lead and win the second set, 25-17.
The Lady Panthers jumped out to a 7-0 lead to start the third set.
Washington began to have success and finally the set was tied, 12-12.
The set stayed close with the score either tied or with Washington leading by one point.
The set was tied at 14, 15 and 16 each.
Washington went up by three points and was able to close out the set, winning 25-19.
The play in the fourth set had the crowd understandably anxious as the tension mounted, it was so close.
The fourth set was tied 11 times, including 20-20.
Miami Trace scored the next two points to take a 22-20 lead.
With the Lady Panthers leading, 24-20, Washington saved one match point, but in the next moment, the match ended with a 25-21 tally.
Statistically for Miami Trace, Laura Robinson had 11 kills and seven blocks; Olivia Fliehman had 15 kills and six ace serves; Tapanga Sanderson had six kills and two blocks and Sidney Howard had three kills and two blocks.
Statistically for Washington, Rayana Burns led with 23 kills, Mallory Hicks had six and Brittney Wilson had two.
Emily Semler and Wilson each had two ace serves.
Wilson had 16 digs, Aaralyne Estep had 15 and Burns had nine.
Wilson had one solo block. Burns and Halli Wall each had five block assists and Amya Haithcock had two block assists.
Wall had 25 set assists.
Miami Trace also won the freshman match Thursday, to improve to 7-0 on the season. The Lady Panther freshman team will compete in a tournament in Chillicothe Saturday morning. Other schools taking part are: Lakewood, East Clinton, McClain, Whitehall, Bishop Hartley and Athens.
Miami Trace won the j-v match, 25-18, 25-23 to finish FAC play at 10-0 (they are 13-2 overall).