Lady Mustangs compete for State volleyball title
The Chillicothe Junior High eighth-grade volleyball team fought its way to the 3A State championship game but came up short in the end to take second place.
CJH lost to Pleasant Plains, 25-23, 25-17 for the title.
The match with Pleasant Plains was tough for the Mustangs but they kept the opponent in their sights and never looked back.
“I’m very proud of them. They worked hard all season and especially tonight. They’ve been looking forward to this night all season,” head coach Bethany Kraft said.
The Cardinals jumped ahead in the first set to grab a 2-0 lead but CJH tied it during Casy Grove’s serving.
CJH earned its first lead at 6-5 after Abby Camp stepped up for a slam over the net.
Hannah Benson followed with another kill before the Mustang’s serve was halted.
The Mustangs earned a four-point lead during Camp’s serves to make it 11-7.
Pleasant Plains answered back with a four-point run during the serving of Kacey Elam.
It was back and forth with points but a kill to the middle court by Madi Johnson gave the Mustangs a lead at 17-16.
CJH held onto the lead until Pleasant Plains pulled ahead at 20-21. The Mustangs were able to hold the Cardinals for a few points but could not jump ahead of them before the final point in the set was scored.
“It was tight and a team like Pleasant Plains isn’t going to make any mistakes and one mistake will cost you two or three points, and that’s the difference in the game,” assistant coach Troy Webb said.
Grove opened the second set with an ace and the Cardinals were called on a violation to give the Mustangs an early lead.
Pleasant Plains caught its set-long lead early at 3-2 and CJH could not come back to overtake.
Johnson was able to narrow the deficit with a kill during Benson’s serves but the Cardinals answered back with another three-point run.
The Mustangs finished the game with kills by Johnson and Grove.
“(Grove’s) a great all-around player. She’s great in every position, back court, front court. We rely heavily on her and Hannah (Benson) and Madi (Johnson), too. They’re our big kids that put the ball down,” Webb said. “Our setters did a nice job, too, and our back row people did well and the serves were fantastic.”
Johnson led the Mustangs with eight kills. Benson was next with three, Grove had two and Camp and Shaylee Fritzinger each had one.
Olivia Gould led in assists with seven and Katie McMorrow had four.
Johnson had four digs and Grove finished with three.
Grove led in serving with two aces and eight service points.
“They were hitting that cross-kill and we made an adjustment to it and switched up our defense a little bit to block the angle a little better,” Webb said.
“They’re really an excellent team but we’re an excellent team too and our girls played their hearts out. They’ve got nothing to hang their heads about.”
Grove closed out the year leading in aces with 113 and digs at 34.
Johnson was a leader in kills with 110.
McMorrow finished the season leading in assists with 117 and Gould was next with 99.
“They’re a great group. They come together and encourage one another. They really work as one,” Kraft said.
“I’m excited to see them in high school. I’m excited to follow them. They’ll be tough.”