It had been a long time in coming.
The last time Miami Trace had won a Sectional championship in volleyball was 1997.
It almost goes without saying that the players on the present team were years away from being born when that happened.
However, on Saturday, Oct. 24, Miami Trace, having its best season in the program’s history, delivered its fourth-ever Sectional championship with a 3-0 win over Frontier Athletic Conference opponent Jackson.
Scores of the sets were 25-16, 25-22 and 25-16.
“It feels really good to do this for the first time here recently,” Miami Trace co-captain senior Chloe Scott said. “I know the teams before us have been working for this as hard as they could. I’m so glad that we were finally able to achieve it here.
“It feels really good,” Scott said. “Everything is paying off right now. It was really nice being able to play teams that we’ve played before in our league. We’re the only ones left in our league right now. We’re happy and we’re ready to continue.”
“Right now it’s a really good feeling and I’m really, really proud of our team and our girls and how we’ve played,” Miami Trace co-captain Olivia Fliehman said. “Starting from last season and into this season, we’ve just kept making new goals. Last year was to get that first league title. This year was to get (the league title) undefeated. Now, we’re Sectional champs. I’m just really proud of us because we are able to make new goals and keep attaining them every time we make them.
“Now we’re just going to move on to our next goal and keep working towards that,” Fliehman said. “We want to beat the next team and move on to the District finals, just keep making goals. Every game is a new goal (and) we want to conquer that goal every time we go in. That’s just how we’re looking at it. I’m just happy and proud to be able to keep playing and keep pushing toward that.”
Miami Trace (now a school-record best 18-1) will host Circleville Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the District semifinals.
Jackson stepped up and really challenged Miami Trace in the third set, taking a six-point lead. However, Miami Trace regrouped and regained the lead to win the match in straight sets.
“The second (set) was pretty close,” Miami Trace head coach Doug Mace said. “Either team, I think, could have won that second set.
“In the third set, they jumped out to a big lead right at the beginning,” Mace said. “We just kind of lost our groove or whatever you want to call it. But then, the girls settled down and got re-focused. We got a couple of points to go our way and kind of got momentum back on our side. We were able to come back and do enough to win the game, which was nice to see. For them to fight back like that was good to see for us.”
Miami Trace has been ranked in the State coaches’ poll all season long, a rarity for Miami Trace volleyball.
“I’m very proud,” Mace said. “The kids have bought in to what we’ve been trying to do the last few years. We’ve been showing signs of improvement. We’ve kept getting better. Right now we’re 18-1 and that’s all on them, putting in the work and trusting in the coaches and believing in themselves.
“When you haven’t had a very successful foundation to build off of, that’s hard to get established,” Mace said. “We finally got them believing in themselves and it’s showing. They’re playing with positive energy and going out with the idea that ‘we are here to win’ for the first time. That’s been great to see.
“For us to be ranked, that’s quite an honor,” Mace said. “I’ve been doing this long enough to know that (being State-ranked) doesn’t happen all the time. For my peers, other coaches, to say, ‘hey, they’re pretty good’, that means a lot. That means we’re doing some of the things we need to be doing. We’re doing some of the right things and it’s finally paying off.”
Miami Trace was ranked No. 13 in the state in Division II in the first poll and finished ranked tied for No. 18 in the state.
“We’re very excited to still be playing,” Mace said. “I think with the COVID and everything that’s happened, the kids have appreciated it more, knowing it could be limited how many times we get the opportunity to play. We’ve made the most of it. Nothing’s taken for granted. Each time we get to play, we’re very appreciative of it. They’re excited because we get to have another practice and we get to continue. It’s neat as a coach when you hear your kids talking that way.”
Statistically for Miami Trace, Gracey Ferguson had four ace serves; Sophia Parsons had four solo blocks and Laura Robinson and Olivia Fliehman both had 12 kills.