NORWOOD — Rallying from the brink of elimination, a heart-driven East Clinton squad defeated Cincinnati Country Day 23-25, 25-22, 19-25, 25-21, 16-14 Tuesday in a Division II Southwest South 2 Sectional championship match at Norwood High School.
East Clinton, 21-2 on the year, will play Saturday afternoon at Fairfield High School for one of three Division III Southwest District championships. Match times are Noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. but matches have not yet been assigned a time.
Megan Tong had three aces, 17 assists and six digs. Jozie Jones had a kill and three blocks while Luisa Rigolin had a kill and three assists. Eryn Bowman had a dig. Jordan Collom totaled an ace, a kill, nine digs and 27 assists.
Savannah Tolle finished with an ace and 26 digs and Lauren Stonewall had a kill and two digs. Libby Evanshine had three aces, 38 kills, three blocks and 18 digs. Kami Whiteaker had four aces, seven kills, a block and nine digs.
Despite Country Day’s 12-9 record, EC head coach Sarah Sodini knew this would be a tough match.
“We’ve been following the tournament and there have been many upsets,” she said. “We kept telling the girls that tournament time means any given team can win on any given day. Two years ago we were upset by a private school (McNicholas) with a lower seed than us. We know it can happen. Also, although we were considered the home team, it was definitely an away match for us. They had a full student section and were only 20 or so minutes from home. We knew it would be tough no matter what.”
And it was indeed a rough start for the Astros. They fell behind the Nighthawks two sets to one set, conjuring memories of last season’s second-round exit to league rival Clermont Northeastern following a 17-1 regular season.
“That loss fueled this win,” EC head coach Sarah Sodini said. “They didn’t want to feel that way again. They’ve put so much work in, they weren’t ready to see it end. Last year we left disappointed. They wanted to live up to their potential.”
While there was talk in the huddle about on-court play prior to the fourth set, Sodini said she pointed more toward her team’s makeup and what was inside each player rather than strategy.
“I just remember that I kept saying, ‘We have more heart than them. If we make the plays, we win. Every ball, every play’,” Sodini said. “I know we talked strategy and what to run and where to be on the court, but I just kept telling them that they have more heart.”
In the end, that heart proved to be the difference as East Clinton won the final two sets to move on to a match against state-ranked Versailles.
“It wasn’t our best volleyball match technically speaking, but it was a gritty game,” said Sodini. “The girls are talented, but even more than that, they are gritty. I have a group of athletes. Most of these kids play two or three more sports. They’ve got heart.”