Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
Southern Ohio Sports Authority is presented by OhioHealth.
LEESBURG — There’s a date circled on Fairfield’s volleyball calendar.
And while it’s more than a month away, the Lions readily admit they’re keeping it in the back of their minds.
Oct. 14 is when North Adams will pay a visit to Fairfield with — the Lions are hoping at least — the Southern Hills Athletic Conference title on the line.
However, to get to that point, and to play for that elusive conference crown, Fairfield must take care of its business first. The Lions did just that on Tuesday with a sweep of Eastern Brown by a 25-20, 25-21, 25-18 final.
However, the Lions (4-2, 3-0 SHAC) had their hands full from start to finish. The Warriors brought an unmatched energy into the game, grabbing early leads in the first and second sets.
Fairfield was caught off guard and had to play on its heels.
“The first few games, we’ve started out really well by minimizing our errors. Tonight, not so much,” Fairfield coach Jerrica Stackhouse said. “We failed on that a little bit. We’re striving for communication. But tonight, not our best performance by far. [Eastern] brough intensity. Their intensity, their scrappiness … they ran for every ball.”
It was a valiant effort from Eastern but, in the end, a mix of Peyton Magee and Jobey Hattan — alongside Paris Priest and Faith Miller — was too much firepower to overcome.
“Every game, we rely on [Magee and Hattan] to bring their intensity and that’s one of the things we talked about in the locker room, about how to not rely on just two people,” Stackhouse said. “We need to bring in that intensity in everybody’s separate roles. Hopefully, we can continue to bring in what Jobey and Peyton have brought. We need that all together.”
With Eastern (2-5, 0-2 SHAC) leading 4-3 in the first set, Mikalah Sheridan gave the Lions a 7-5 lead from the service line. Hattan made it a 10-9 lead with a crosscourt kill before Magee followed suit for a 17-16 advantage.
From there, a 6-0 run, led by Sheridan at the service line once more, gave the Lions the space they needed to pull away for a 25-20 victory.
Eastern’s Sarah Clark fired back with a service run of her own in the second, giving the Warriors an early 3-0 lead before Magee ended the scoring burst. Fairfield then took its first lead at 9-8, behind a kill from Haley Shoemaker, before going on a 6-1 run for a 17-14 edge.
The Warriors, led by Emily Mullins at the net, tied the score at 17-17, but Hattan and company had enough left in the tank to seal a 25-21 win.
With a 2-0 lead in the match, Fairfield fired on all cylinders to begin the third. The Lions, behind both Miller and Shelby Rice at the service line, built a 13-2 lead to start the set. Eastern battled to close the gap to 20-16 late but Magee helped pound the nail in its coffin with two late kills.
“These girls have an incredible bond, on and off the court,” Stackhouse said. “They’re really close, they’re tight-knit and they’re like sisters. So when we fall apart, it’s because they’re like sisters. When we pull it together, it’s because they’re like sisters. It’s really a big family.”
Fairfield is back in conference action on Thursday, traveling to West Union, while Eastern returns to the court on Saturday at Clinton-Massie for a tri-match with Bethel-Tate.
Oct. 14 can still be circled, italicized or written in bold font. However, Stackhouse has told her girls they can’t have any letdowns before that date comes.
“We’re trying to prepare for sleepers,” Stackhouse said. “We’re trying to decipher the difference between confidence and cockiness. If we can determine that, I think we’ll have a good season. And we have to focus on minimizing those errors. We had a lot of missed serves tonight and that’s not typical for this group. So tomorrow, in practice, we’re going to focus on that.”