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, SHAC and MSL-Buckeye, the five conferences within SOSA’s coverage reach, four different programs earned district titles while Adena and South Webster each played in the Elite 8.
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.
20. Carissa Wheeler, Unioto
2020 statistics: 142 kills, 22 aces, 69 blocks, 138 digs, 28 assists
When Wheeler got the chance to put a swing on the volleyball, she usually made the most of it. The Shermans’ outside hitter posted a 28.7 kill percentage and provided a spark each and every time she entered the lineup. Don’t be surprised if Unioto consistently looks for her at the net this fall. She’s the one player on the Shermans’ roster that can dismantle an opponent.
19. Graci Claxon, South Webster
2020 statistics: 1 kill, 31 aces, 0 blocks, 327 digs, 53 assists
While the Jeeps had one of the most dynamic offenses in the area last season, Claxon made sure we recognized the team’s defensive achievements as well. She was the leader of a group that held opponents at bay while tallying 327 digs and just 13 dig errors. She also posted 549 serve receives, making just 37 miscues. She’ll be back and better than ever this fall.
18. Ava Eldridge, Unioto
2020 statistics: 23 kills, 27 aces, 13 blocks, 310 digs, 742 assists
During her four-year career, it’s fair to say that Eldridge has been severely underrated. Her numbers tell the entire story as she certainly belongs in the best of the best conversation. The setter literally makes Unioto’s offense run smoothly, evidenced by her 742 assists as a junior. She enters her senior year close to several milestones, sitting at 1,625 assists and 693 digs.
17. Bella Claxon, South Webster
2020 statistics: 201 kills, 41 aces, 14 blocks, 198 digs, 390 assists
There is no shortage of the Claxon last name at South Webster. And that spells trouble for any challengers. As a freshman last season, Bella was phenomenal. She put up 201 kills, 198 digs and 390 assists for a team that finished 23-2 and ended in the Elite 8. If you’re looking for a conference, district and regional title favorite, you’ll want to have a conversation with the Jeeps.
16. Morgan Blakeman, Circleville
2020 statistics: 284 kills, 47 aces, 37 blocks, 278 digs, 10 assists
Without a doubt, Blakeman will be the focal point of the Tigers’ attack this fall. That’s after a season in which she tallied 284 kills and a 29.6 kill percentage. She helped Circleville go 22-3 and win an outright MSL-Buckeye championship. While the Tigers lost a significant crop of talent, they’ll still be a force to be reckoned with. Blakeman, a junior, is a huge reason why.
15. Lexie Lockwood, Southeastern
2020 statistics: 21 kills, 38 aces, 9 blocks, 457 digs, 15 assists
When Lockwood is roaming in the back row, there’s not a lot she doesn’t get a touch on. She’s one of the area’s most athletic liberos and has played consistently solid throughout her career. Toughness, tenacity and an unrivaled will to win describe her perfectly. She enters her senior year at 1,334 career digs and will certainly be looking to pile on.
14. Hannah Lougheed, Southeastern
2020 statistics: 303 kills, 46 aces, 28 blocks, 286 digs, 214 assists
The Scioto Valley Conference is always jam-packed with top-tier talent. Lougheed fits the bill. Her versatility was on full display last season as she racked up 303 kills, 286 digs and 214 assists. Opposing teams had her circled on their game plans and still couldn’t find the answer. Whatever the Panthers need her to do, she always answers the call. That won’t change this fall.
13. Olivia Smith, Paint Valley
2020 statistics: 311 kills, 25 aces, 34 blocks, 350 digs, 22 assists
Smith has wowed area fans since she stepped onto the volleyball court. And she’s helped rejuvenate the Bearcats’ program in the process. She’ll be chasing 1,000 career kills and digs coming into her senior year as she sits at 726 and 978, respectively, before it starts. You can expect both of those marks to be reached and for PV to look to her in times of trouble.
12. Makenna Lovely, Adena
2020 statistics: 201 kills, 21 aces, 12 blocks, 295 digs, 10 assists
There’s a culture of success at Adena and Lovely has helped continue that trend. The right-handed hitter totaled 201 kills and 295 digs last season for a team that finished 22-2 overall with SVC, sectional and district championships in hand. She had an impact on each match and will continue to do so this fall as Adena looks to make a serious postseason run.
11. Jenna Martin, Adena
2020 statistics: 239 kills, 15 aces, 85 blocks, 51 digs, 8 assists
Martin torments opponents. It’s really just that simple. She leaves her fingerprints on each match and provides the Warriors with a bonafide, all-state middle hitter. Her 239 kills and 85 blocks as a junior were both team-highs as she led an offense that dropped just 14 sets all year. It’s Dayton or bust for Adena this season. Martin is quite literally at the center of that storm.