The Cedarville women’s volleyball team won their third consecutive G-MAC Championship on Saturday afternoon with a victory over Ohio Valley University. There was a lot of energy in the Callan Athletic Center as the teams and fans, alike, knew the title was on the line.
“Ohio Valley brought a whole bus load of students, and so obviously the big advantage for us is playing at home,” Coach Doug Walters said. “We play in front of the best crowds here at home.”
Walters said they play in front of 50 to 100 people when they’re on the road and 500 to 1,000 people when they’re at home.
“That’s great and I think that’s a huge positive of being able to be a Yellow Jacket and being able to play in front of a great crowd like this that provides all of that energy,” he said.
The Jackets led early in the first set, but the Scots turned the momentum in their favor, building a small margin and winning the first set 25-20.
The Cedarville student section got behind the Jackets in the second set. The Jackets jumped out to an early lead and held on to win 25-20. Early in the second set, Ohio Valley lost their middle hitter, Felicia Zartman.
“She’s been the middle hitter the entire year, and we really hadn’t anticipated anything like that happening,” said Ohio Valley head coach, Paul Jacoby. “It was a big impact. Losing her leadership as a senior, being her senior year and her last match, definitely affected everybody. You could see how down and disappointed they were, and I was, too.”
Walters said the energy sapped out of the gym for a second after the injury, but returned quickly.
“I think Ohio Valley bounced back from that pretty well,” Walters said. “I was actually concerned because that happened to us earlier in the season, as well, with an opponent going down with an ACL tear, and it actually affected us more than it did their team. I was a little concerned that might happen here, but I think the fan base kind of got them back into it and got them refocused on what the task was.”
After the intermission, Ohio Valley jumped out to a 12-7 lead. Cedarville took a timeout, regrouped, and then rattled off 10 straight points. They went on to win the set 25-15.
“To have the crowd involved like that just boosted everyone’s energy and it was great,” Amanda Bell said.
The final set was closely contested, but the Jackets rode the momentum to win 25-18, winning the match by a final of three sets to one.
There was a lot of disappointment for the visiting Fighting Scots.
“It’s the best season we’ve ever had, and I’ve been here 21 years,” Coach Jacoby said. “This is the best group of girls I’ve ever had. They all work hard; they all work together. We came in seeded 7th in the preseason and ended up as the second seed. You can’t ask for any more than that. We deserved to be here and we worked hard for that.”
The win gives the Jackets a final record of 20-13 (11-1) on the season. Next season the winner of the G-MAC tournament will receive an automatic qualification to the Division II NCAA tournament.
For the Jackets, there were many tears of joy, but also many tears of sadness for the seniors’ final match.
“There’s been a lot of emotions this past week with a lot of lasts: last practices, last Bible studies, and, today, last game,” Senior Hannah Wagner said. “I think it was fitting that it was the conference title. Since Maddie (Ledbetter), Amanda (Bell), and I have been here we’ve won the conference title and I think it was a good end to a good four years.”
Wagner led the Jackets with 18 kills. Abby Shelton, Amanda Bell, and Tori Thompson all had 10.
Bell said they had to focus during the game, but she kept thinking about the season ending.
“So, that was kind of hard to keep the right perspective,” she said. “We just had a lot of energy, and energy always keeps us going. Just those last few points I was thinking, ‘This is it.’ I got to serve the last few points of my college career, so that was awesome.”
Junior Tori Thompson said of the seniors, “It was very emotional and we all started tearing up afterwards because they’re just so special whether they’re playing or off the court.”
Paul McMichael is a senior preseminary Bible major and a sports reporter for Cedars.