Lady Eagles advance to district finals
by Bryan Walters
JACKSON, Ohio — Guess who’s back.
The Eastern volleyball team is headed to its 11th straight district final this weekend following a 25-13, 25-11, 25-2 shelling of Leesburg Fairfield Thursday night during a Division IV district semifinal at Jackson High School.
The top-seeded Lady Eagles (23-1) fell behind 1-0 in the opening game, then never trailed again at any point in the match as the Green and White reeled off three consecutive double-digit victories to secure a spot in Saturday’s D-4 championship contest.
EHS will face third-seeded Waterford (20-4) for the third time this season in the district final at 4 p.m. Saturday in the Apple City. Eastern, currently ranked ninth in the D-4 coaches poll, won both previous matchups in four games this fall and it is also a rematch of last year’s district championship contest.
The Lady Eagles recorded 55 service points, 38 kills and seven blocks as a team in the rout, and the Lady Lions (14-6) also managed just seven service points in the entire match.
EHS led by as much as 14 points in each of the first two games, then stormed out to a 12-0 advantage in the finale before closing out the contest with nine straight service points from Erin Swatzel.
In all, it was a pretty good night for the Lady Eagles — who are aiming for the program’s eighth district championship in school history on Saturday.
EHS coach Howie Caldwell, who is now 17-2 alltime in district play, was pleased with the overall effort on Thursday night. He also noted that there is still a lot of work to be done.
“This time of year, the more-aggressive club is usually the more successful club. I thought we played very aggressive tonight and did some things very, very well,” Caldwell said. “I told the girls after the game that people don’t train years and years for the Olympics to come home with the silver medal — they train to win gold. That’s exactly what our focus needs to be and that’s what we are going to try and do Saturday.”
There were two ties and four lead changes in the entire match, and half of those came in the opening three points of Game 1. EHS turned a 2-1 lead into advantages of 12-6 and 18-8 before closing the game with a small 7-5 run for a 1-0 match lead.
FHS managed a tie at one-all in Game 2, but Eastern followed with a 23-9 surge for a 24-10 lead before trading points for a 2-0 match edge.
Ally Hendrix started the finale with 11 straight service points en route to a 12-0 lead, then the Lady Eagles led 16-2 before serving up the final nine points of the match.
Ally Hendrix led the EHS service attack with 24 points, followed by Erin Swatzel with 12 points and Maddie Rigsby with nine points. Gabby Hendrix added five points to the winning cause, while Jordan Parker and Kiki Osborne chipped in respective point totals of three and two.
Rigsby led the net attack with 16 kills, followed by Parker with nine kills and Osborne with six kills. Swatzel had four kills and four blocks, while Katie Keller added three kills and a block. Rigsby also had two blocks.
Ally Hendrix led the passing game with 37 assists, while Gabby Hendrix led the defense with 21 digs. Rigsby also had a dozen digs in the triumph.
Sydney Corzatt paced Fairfield with three service points, followed by Sarah Putnam with two points. Makennah Corzatt and Brenna Simmons both had one point apiece in the setback.
Eastern has now won 22 consecutive matches this fall and has three-game sweeps in its last eight contests, as well as wins in its last 27 games played.
The last team to win a game against the Lady Eagles was Waterford, which came in the opener of a 20-25, 25-10, 25-21, 25-22 decision at WHS back on September 27.
Caldwell knows that the Lady ‘Cats are talented and capable of competing with his troops, but he also feels that his Lady Eagles are hungry and want to keep playing volleyball this season.
“We are starting to peak at the right time and you can tell that the girls are excited about playing right now,” Caldwell said. “They realize that the better teams are starting to play now and they are looking forward to that.
“These girls like playing in big games and I know we will be ready to play in a big game on Saturday.”
NOTES: Eastern volleyball last lost in the D-4 district semifinals to North Adams back in 2001. The Lady Eagles have district championships in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011, and all of those titles have come under Caldwell — who did not coach the program in 2008.
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