Times Sports Editor
CLAY CITY -- The Clay City Eels will be returning to the IHSAA volleyball regional this week after repeating as sectional champions on their home court.
For first-year head coach Vance Edmondson, the victory was especially satisfying after seeing the team progress throughout the season.
"It's very satisfying. The hard work and dedication these girls have showed all year long, it paid off tonight," Edmondson said. "I'm very proud of them.
"The girls believed all year long that they could do this. We had some key returners coming back in Chloe (Kittle) Callie (Dayhuff), Halli (Brewer) and Emmie (Kittle). We put the pieces together and filled in some spots. I think we expected to be here all year long."
The sectional title is just the school's second in volleyball, but adds another trophy to go with the three consecutive titles that the girl's basketball team has produced in the past three seasons. For senior Callie Dayhuff, also a part of the basketball team's success along with Claire Miller, the victory was especially gratifying.
"We've been coming together, I think, as a team towards the end (of the season)," Dayhuff said. "We've been realizing that we can do this again. We have the three seniors on the team and we've been playing for a long time. We thought that hey, we can do this."
The Eels opened quickly in the opening game, going up 6-5 on a kill by senior Halli Brewer and then scoring 10 of the next 12 points as Meghan Skaggs served up an ace and both Dayhuff and Alyssa Yocom had kills along with Chloe Kittle. Leading 16-6, the Eels closed out an emphatic game one win with Brewer producing three late kills to go with a pair by Dayhuff.
White River Valley stayed close in the second set as sophomore hitter Shannon Pittman came alive for a pair of kills to get WRV within 11-9 near the mid-point of the game. However, Clay City began to take control as Brewer and Chloe Kittle had kills and Yocom added another. A tip by Dayhuff at the net pushed the lead to 17-12 for the Eels and the senior followed with another short attack that found the court.
The Wolverines clawed back to within 19-15 on an ace by freshman Allison Wininger, but Brewer answered with a kill and two hitting errors by WRV helped the Eels claim the second set, 25-17.
White River Valley produced its best volleyball in the final game, which allowed them to lead a good portion of the set.
A block by Jasmine Padgett and another by Pittman gave the Wolverines a 15-13 lead and a kill by Wininger added to the gap and forced a Clay City timeout.
The Eels began their comeback thanks to a hitting error and a service mistake by WRV and an attack by Brewer gave Clay City a 19-18 lead. However, the Wolverines scrapped all the way to the wire, including a kill by Pittman and a block by Wininger that gave WRV a 24-23 lead and forced game point on Clay City.
The Eels showed their resilience however, as Dayhuff forced a WRV mistake to tie the score. A hitting error by Padgett gave Clay City a shot at match point and Dayhuff produced with a kill to earn the Eels another title.
"WRV fought until the bitter end and we knew they would. We talked in those time outs there near the end that we wanted to win the game and didn't want them to give it to us," Edmondson said. "The girls stepped up and we got key kills there at the end to stop their momentum and we were able to pull it out."
Edmondson also pointed out his reserves for playing well down the stretch for Clay City.
"Meghan Skaggs, we wanted to rest Callie some, and she does a great job in the back row and does a great job serving. We are real happy with her," Edmondson said. "We have a rotation with Mackenzee Mckittrick and Kiersten Teegarden. Those two come in and did their jobs tonight so we're real proud of them."
For Dayhuff, the victory was perhaps even more exciting than her first volleyball title last year.
"We were in different roles last year. I'm playing outside hitter and last year I was libero. We kind of had to grow into our roles," Dayhuff said. "I'm still in shock that I'm going to have two pictures up there (on the wall) now. You can't get any better than that. Volleyball is my sport and I've been working for this since fourth grade, playing travel volleyball."
The Eels (14-11 overall) travel to regional play on Tuesday at the winner of Saturday's late match between Indiana Deaf and Bethesda Christian.
Clay City Sectional