Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
If you remember last season — and how could you forget — the area’s volleyball scene provided plenty of drama and an abundance of success.
Between the SVC, SOC, FAC and SHAC, the four conferences within SOSA’s coverage area, three different programs earned district titles before Wheelersburg represented the Southeast District in a Division III state semifinal.
But en route to those postseason finishes, there were plenty of individual performances to rave about, multiple records broken and tons of matches that won’t soon be forgotten.
As for this season, we expect much more of the same. But before it happens, we decided to compile a list of the coverage area’s top 30 players. It was an absolute bear to do so, but we think we’ve got a list of 30 athletes who are the absolute best at their craft.
Remember, this list only includes players from within SOSA’s coverage area and it isn’t an end all, be all. We encourage discussion and getting our athletes the recognition they deserve is always our mission.
30. Bri Claxon, South Webster
2019 statistics: 185 kills, 36 aces, 34 blocks, 301 digs, 448 assists
As a sophomore, Claxon contributed mightily to a team that won its first district title since 2016. The setter passed out 448 assists, a team high, and added 185 kills to the mix for good measure. Claxon will be a force to be reckoned with throughout her career. That’s bad news for SOC opponents, who still have to deal with the hard-hitting junior for two seasons to come.
29. Ally Coriell, Minford
2019 statistics: 351 kills, 40 aces, 44 blocks, 43 digs, 16 assists
At the net, the Falcons relied on Coriell to do many things. She led the team, by far, in kills with 351 … 233 more than any other teammate. She was one of two players on the team with double-digit blocking figures and had her name consistently circled on opponents’ game plans. The 6-foot-4 senior should have her way with defenses across the region once again in 2020.
28. Ari DaRif, Adena
2019 statistics: 30 kills, 45 aces, 0 blocks, 279 digs, 397 assists
There are many players on Adena’s roster who could, and did, make this list. But DaRif is a name that’s often overlooked. She was essential to the Warriors’s success last season and quietly racked up nearly 400 assists. DaRif had a 14.1 ace percentage, the second highest mark on the team, and posted just 16 dig errors in 83 sets. Needless to say, that’s impressive.
27. Jaelyn Pitzer, McClain
2019 statistics: 174 kills, 53 aces, 0 blocks, 196 digs, 5 assists
Pitzer led the Tigers in kills last season … a team that featured four players with 100+ kills. Her 53 aces ranked second on the team, alongside a 22.6 ace percentage. If you’ve watched her play, you know she brings a tenacity that’s simply different compared to her peers. McClain will, once again, rely on Pitzer to carry the team to its eventual finish this season.
26. Carissa Wheeler, Unioto
2019 statistics: 10 kills, 4 aces, 5 blocks, 6 digs, 0 assists
If Wheeler wouldn’t have suffered a season-ending injury last fall, she would undoubtedly be higher on this list. But in the severely limited time she got on the court, there was no question as to whether or not she belongs on this list. Athletically, she’s one of the area’s most gifted players. Her being fully healthy this season will give Unioto a much-needed boost.
25. Layla Hattan, Fairfield
2019 statistics: 285 kills, 44 aces, 11 blocks, 499 digs, 16 assists
As the Lions’ most feared outside hitter last season, Hattan led the team with 285 kills and was a key piece to the team’s defense with just under 500 digs. Her versatility helped Fairfield win 16 matches, 11 of which came in conference play. The Lions lost four seniors but will welcome back a platoon of key returners. Hattan tops that list and is the leader of the group.
24. Johanna Crawford, Chillicothe
2019 statistics: 15 kills, 41 aces, 0 blocks, 101 digs, 339 assists
Crawford impressed many as she took over setter duties for the FAC champion Cavaliers. Chillicothe ended the season with a 14-9 record and won yet another conference title. Crawford helped that happen with an impressive stat line that included 339 assists in her first varsity year. She’ll have the opportunity to grow as a player and as a leader this fall.
23. Makaela Lovely, Adena
2019 statistics: 76 kills, 0 aces, 22 blocks, 78 digs, 414 assists
Lovely settled into her setter role last season rather … well … lovely. The 5-foot-7 sophomore led the team in assists and helped the Warriors secure yet another district title, the team’s first since 2016. As she continues to progress, Lovely is poised to become Adena’s next great setter, a long lineage of names that made their mark on SVC volleyball.
22. Kaylee Darnell, Wheelersburg
2019 statistics: 3 kills, 16 aces, 0 blocks, 280 digs, 7 assists
Darnell was as solid as a rock last season. The Pirates’ libero helped Wheelersburg win its first-ever regional title and rip off 27 straight victories. The senior’s athleticism allows her to continue to be a staple on the defensive end and her leadership skills are second to none. She’s a fearless defender with the heart of a lion, and one of the best players in the area.
21. Makenna Lovely, Adena
2019 statistics: 223 kills, 26 aces, 14 blocks, 331 digs, 19 assists
Lovely did a little bit of everything last season, displaying her value on a nightly basis. She was one of three Warriors who totaled 200-plus kills and added a 98.8 serve percentage to the mix as well. Much like her twin sister, Lovely will continue to develop into one of the SVC’s best. Those two will try and team up to help the Warriors win a second consecutive district crown.