Gabby McConnell
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Carson Francis

Carson is an aspiring journalist and a student at Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. He's a lifelong fan of all things Reds, Bengals and Buckeyes, and has seen the game through the eyes of a player, fan and reporter.

Circleville begins season with sweep of Westfall

The Tigers start their season on the right note.

Carson Francis, Contributor

Southern Ohio Sports Authority is presented by OhioHealth.

CIRCLEVILLE — In any sport, no start to the season is better than a win in the first game.

After a 2022 tournament run that saw Circleville’s 20-win season end in a district semifinal, the Tigers (1-0) were eager to get back on the floor and made quick work of Westfall, sweeping the Mustangs by a 25-22, 25-15, 25-20 final.

“We knew coming in that this would be a good test,” Circleville head coach Crystal Thornsley said. “We’re young, so we weren’t sure how we would handle the pressure. I think as the night went on, our girls relaxed, settled in, and got a great first win.” 

Circleville had its work cut out for it in the beginning.

Highlighted by back-to-back aces from Jaylyn Wippel and a kill from Aubrey Clark, Westfall (0-1) started out of the gates to an 11-5 advantage. 

The Tigers responded quickly, though.

After the two exchanged blows, Ella Michael tied the set at 18-18 with an ace. On the next play, Ally Thornsley set up Ayla Carmichael to give Circleville the lead. The Tigers went on to extend that advantage and, eventually, take the first set.

In the second, Circleville was all business, and it was none other than senior Gabby McConnell leading the charge.

“[Gabby] leads by example,” Thornsley said. “She had a fantastic night. She handled the ball very well and made good decisions, and we’re very proud of her tonight.” 

After an Aubrey Clark kill cut Circleville’s lead to 4-2 early, McConnell went to work, setting up Addison Edgington for three straight kills before setting up Ally Thornsley for another. 

McConnell and Thornsley connected five more times in the set, while Thornsley connected with Edgington another three, allowing Circleville to cruise to a victory.

“We kind of have an inexperienced back row,” McConnell said, who led the Tigers with 11 digs, said. “Having [Edgington’s] big block up there really helps.” 

However, Westfall was not going away just yet.

Back-to-back aces from Karli Thornton put the Mustangs up 2-0, early in the third, and that lead expanded to 4-1. After Circleville retook the lead later in the set and seemed to be pulling away, Westfall fought back.

An Aubrey Clark ace cut the deficit to 20-19 and seemed to create momentum.

That’s when Circleville’s two freshmen stepped up once again. Thornsley set up Edgington for a kill, and Edgington notched a block – her eighth of the night – before landing a kill to put Circleville back up by a 23-19 tally.

The Tigers then closed out with a victory in hand.  

“That was a great start to our season,” McConnell said. “We can definitely build on this. We just have to work hard in practice, and hopefully come out strong on Thursday.”

While McConnell led the Tigers with 11 digs, she also contributed 10 assists and six kills on the night. Thornsley had 24 assists,while Edgington led the team with 16 kills and eight blocks.

Both teams will be challenged in their next contests. Circleville opens up MSL play on Thursday at home against Fairfield Union while Westfall hosts Logan Elm that same evening.

“With this team and its lack of experience, we’re taking this match-by-match,” Crystal Thornsley said. “We’re zeroed in on Fairfield Union and we’re not looking past that. They’ve got a strong team with their offense, so we’re just looking to Thursday and no further.”


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