Eagles make Cinderella run to the district finals

Yaneek Smith

Press Sports Editor

Clay’s run has ended, but that can’t stop the Eagles from relishing their run to the Division I district finals, a journey that included a victory over one of the top teams in the state, Anthony Wayne, 3-1, in a district semifinal. It was one of the most historic victories in program history, a win that saw senior star Adella Rodriguez earn her 1,000th career kill.
Clay coach Carrie Wagoner talked about the 3-1 (22-25, 25-21, 25-19, 25-22) victory.
“AW is a sophomore-led team, as is Clay. We had five sophomores, so AW and Clay are very comparable teams. We just played well overall. Our back-row passing was on that day. We normally struggle with serve-receiving, but overall, our game was on that night,” said Wagoner, who just completed her sixth season coaching the team. “Our passes were good, which in turn allowed our setters to get the ball to the hitters and our connection was unstoppable. We had the energy, and the communication on the court was amazing. We just kept our momentum on a high the entire match. Being a young team, we really had to adjust to the speed of the game this season. AW will definitely be a hard team to beat in the next few years, but our talent is very comparable.”
Rodriguez had 23 kills and Madison Frank finished with six in the win over the Lady Generals.
In the 3-0 (25-23, 25-19, 25-23) loss to the Yellow Jackets, the Eagles jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the first set and a 6-0 lead in the second set, but Perrysburg was too good and rallied to win the match in three sets.
Rodriguez had a match-high 11 kills for Clay, and Madison Franke chipped in with five.
The Eagles were seeking their first district title in 18 years. They beat Perrysburg earlier in the season, 3-1, but the Jackets got revenge on them.
“Perrysburg, we always seem to meet up with them in a district round. We didn’t have the same type of energy coming in that evening. Unfortunately, our passing was not on point, they had some really good servers, and we struggled passing the serve-receive ball, so we had to run a lot of out of system-balls to our hitters,” Wagoner said. “Our connection overall as a team wasn't on point, which hurt us, obviously. We still battled and only lost by two points in two sets. I would've liked for us to go four or five sets, but we just couldn't get it done that evening.”
Clay (14-11) defeated Waite, 3-0, in a sectional where Rodriguez set the career kill record and won four of its last five games in the regular season, which sent them into the postseason on a hot streak. The Eagles defeated Napoleon 3-0, a match in which Natalie Karrick reached 1,000 assists, was preceded by victories of Bowling Green (3-0), Perrysburg (3-1), Southview (3-0). The only loss during that run was a 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Little Giants. In that match, Avery Young set the school record for blocks, and Dylanie Pollauf and Hayden Rodriguez contributed greatly in those wins.
“I think the reason why we were so ready to go into the tournament is we had some big teams stacked in our schedule towards the end of our regular season,” said Wagoner. “This really helps by playing faster-paced teams and bigger competition to challenge us as a team a bit more.”
Some of the other players in the rotation were Brynn Reiter, Lilly Collins, Leah Franke, Eme Goetz and Jadyn Kennedy.
“Jadyn Kennedy played libero most of the season and was also one of our captains. She is a great defensive player, she read the ball well defensively. She still struggled a bit serve-receiving, but that will come with more experience and a faster-paced game,” said Wagoner. “Leah Franke also came in as a defensive specialist during some crucial points for the team. Eme Goetz played in some crucial games for us. She is definitely going to be the player to watch the next few years. This team is very gifted with talent and being so young I am excited to see what next season has in store for them.”
For 12 years, from 2011-23, the Eagles competed in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference against the likes of Notre Dame Academy and St. Ursula, but they’re now in the Northern Lakes League Cardinal Division, which is home to Springfield, Southview, Bowling Green, Napoleon and Fremont Ross. (The rest of the teams — Whitmer, Perrysburg, Findlay, Northview and Anthony Wayne — compete in the Buckeye Division.)
In Wagoner’s previous five seasons, the team won four sectional titles and reached the district finals once.
The team will lose just two seniors, Young and Adella Rodriguez, and the JV team went 19-3, meaning the future looks bright for the Eagles.
Rodriguez was a first-team selection in the NLL and the district, Young was second-team selection in the conference, Karrick earned first-team honors in the LL and second-team honors in the district.


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