REEDSVILLE - The Waterford Lady Wildcats are Tri-Valley Conference - Hocking Division champions.
With a 3-game sweep over the Eastern Lady Eagles Thursday night in Reedsville, the Lady 'Cats claimed the league title outright. Had Eastern won, the two teams would have shared it.
"I knew they were capable of it," Waterford head coach Jandy Drayer said of her players.
JORDAN HOLLAND The Marietta Times
Waterford’s Taylor Hilverding (14) and Dani Drayer (22) try to block Eastern’s Jordan Parker (12) hit Thursday night.
"I'm so proud of 'em. I couldn't ask for a better group of girls. And everybody that came out to support us, we have an awesome community following."
Waterford senior Laura Hill added "It feels amazing. We have worked really hard as a team. We just did not quit when we knew we could get it."
It was the first time Waterford has defeated Eastern twice in the regular season since 2010. The last two seasons, Eastern defeated Waterford twice in the regular season and then again in the district championship match. Hill admitted that getting the league title with a win over Eastern made it extra sweet.
Waterford d. Eastern 25-23, 25-21, 26-24
Waterford (20-2, 16-0) stats: Dani Drayer 3aces, 12kills, 12digs; Laura Hill 6aces, 1asst, 11kills, 1block, 9digs; Taylor Hilverding 3asst, 6kills, 3blocks, 4digs; Haley McCutcheon 1asst, 8kills, 9digs; Alyssa Miller 1ace, 36asst, 2kills, 1dig; Maddy Sury 3kills, 4blocks; Katie Semon 11digs
JV: Eastern d. Waterford 20-25, 25-21, 26-24
JV stats: Waterford (15-4, 13-3): Madison Ohse 6pts, 4aces, 1kill; Mariah Starkey 3pts, 22asst, 2kills; Jillian McCutcheon 7pts, 2aces, 5kills; Tess teters 5pts, 1ace, 1asst, 7kills; Samantha Armstrong 1ace, 1asst; Regan Porter 7pts, 4aces, 6kills, 3blocks; Gabbi Tornes 7pts, 2aces, 6kills, 1block
Next match: Symmes Valley/Miller at Waterford at 6 p.m. Thursday (Sectional tournament)
"We always knew we could beat them and finally we got to do it," she said.
The Wildcats came out firing as a kill and an ace by Hill put them on top 8-2. The lead extended to seven at 12-5 before Eastern took seven of the next nine points to cut it to 14-12, prompting a Waterford timeout.
"We struggled a bit there for a little while," Coach Drayer said. "I said 'We have fought too hard. We can't let them have this game.'"
Coming out of the timeout, Dani Drayer recorded a kill to make it 15-12 before Eastern's Jordan Parker brought the Eagles back. Parker notched three kills and an ace to put Eastern up 17-16. Waterford responded with four straight points, thanks to kills by Alyssa Miller, Haley McCutcheon and Taylor Hilverding, to retake the lead at 20-17.
A pair of kills by Eastern's Erin Swatzel would cut it to 21-20 before back-to-back points by the Eagles gave them the lead again at 22-21. It was short-lived, however, as a couple of miscues by Eastern put the advantage back in Waterford's favor.
That set the stage for an ace by Miller to make it 24-22, and two plays later an Eastern spike attempt was blocked by the Wildcats to give the green and white a 1-0 lead in the match.
The second game also went back and forth until, knotted up at 12-all, the Wildcats scored six straight points to go on top 18-12. Three aces by Hill and a kill by Drayer led the rally. Two plays later, a kill by Eastern's Kelsey Johnson cut it to 18-14 before a block by Hilverding and a kill by McCutcheon extended the Waterford lead to 21-14.
Kills by Swatzel and Maddie Rigsby brought Eastern to within four at 22-18 and would later get as close as 24-21 before the Lady 'Cats got a kill to secure the set victory and put the Eagles in a 2-0 hole. Waterford got off to another hot start in the third set, going up 8-3, but Eastern would rally to tie it at 11-11. Waterford took a 13-11 lead when Miller assisted Hill on a kill followed by a block by Hilverding.
The two teams continued to trade points until a kill by Parker gave Eastern a 19-18 advantage. Miller then assisted Hill on consecutive kills to Waterford back in front at 20-19 before Eastern reeled off four straight points to take a 23-20 lead. A kill by Drayer made it 23-21 before Parker answered with a kill to put Eastern one point away from winning the set.
The Eagles called a timeout after the Wildcats scored back-to-back points to cut it to 24-23. A Hilverding kill tied it up before Drayer spiked a Miller pass into the ground to put Waterford up 25-24. Hill then put the finishing touch on the match by serving up an ace to give Waterford the conference title. It was a fitting end to the game, as the Eagles had trouble returning serves all night from Hill, who finished with a game-high six aces. "I put a lot of work into (serving)," Hill said. "Mr. (Don) Miller, he was my club coach and he has helped me a lot with it. Jandy tells me what I'm doing wrong and I just try to fix it as much as I can."
Other team leaders for Waterford were Drayer with 12 kills and 12 digs, Sury with four blocks and Miller with 36 assists.
"I felt like we served really well, and our passes were amazing," Coach Drayer said. "When our setter can put it wherever she wants to, and our hitters can really get on top of the ball like that...we were hitting the holes in the floor, we were hitting the ball down, and that's what I like to see."
Waterford finished the regular season with a 20-2 overall record and was a perfect 16-0 in the TVC-Hocking. The Wildcats next match will be at home against either Symmes Valley or Miller with a sectional title on the line.