When Josie Williams stepped to the serving line late in the third set on Thursday, the Westfall senior experienced a range of emotions.
“Going into serve on the last point was so exciting and nerve wracking,” she said. “I just tried to take a deep breath and relax. I knew we had all of the momentum and we were going to take this last set.
“I just took everything in and served aggressively to try and get them out of system, and it happened to be ace. No words can describe that feeling then.”
That feeling was Williams serving a pair of aces to close out a 26-24, 25-17 and 25-21 win over visiting Zane Trace to win the outright Scioto Valley Conference championship.
The Mustangs (18-3, 12-2) sprinted out to a 10-3 lead in the third set, but the Pioneers (13-9, 7-7) responded to take a pair of one-point leads. With the set tied at 21-21, Kristin Phillips put away back-to-back kills and then Williams closed out the set and match with her aforementioned two aces to clinch the outright title.
“We didn’t want to just share the title, we wanted to win it outright,” Williams said.
A year after finishing sixth in the conference, its the Mustangs’ first SVC title since 2013 and fourth in program history.
The night opened with a tight first set that was tied at 24-24 when Phillips went down the line for kill to bring up set point. The Pioneers then hit into the net to give the Mustangs an early lead in the match.
“Pulling through those tight two sets came from our team digging deep,” Phillips said. “We didn’t stay satisfied and pushed through with our serve receive and our offense to get the win. We were really focused and mentally stable throughout the entire match.”
Leading 11-10 in the second set, the Mustangs assembled an 11-1 run that opened with a pair of kills from Williams and ended with a trio of kills by Phillips. Marissa Mullins later capped the set with a kill.
“I knew personally I had to play big and aggressive to help contribute to the win,” Phillips said. “It came from my mental state of thinking I was going to go out and get the kill.
“I really wanted to put the ball away as quickly as possible so we could have a big lead. I really tried to keep Zane Trace on their feet by making their defense move a bunch and make it difficult for them to run a offense and stay in system.”
Phillips led the way with 22 kills, seven digs and four blocks — two solo — and Josie Williams dished out 18 assists and also had eight kills and 18 digs. Claire Latham handed out 20 assists to go with five kills and nine digs; Mullins put away seven kills; Lauren Daniels gathered 16 digs, Grace Wolfe had 11 and Kayla Fleischmann added six.
The Mustangs open tournament play on Oct. 19 when they host either Federal Hocking or Wellston in a sectional final.