Clay City sweeps their way to first Regional championship

Clay City Senior Brielle Drelick plays with an intensity that is unmatched on the hardwood floors.

When the ball is in the air, she is the first one to dive for the dig, while often being the last one spiking it down for the kill. When the point is just being marked on the board, Drelick is the one that you can hear from the very top of the bleachers, screaming and fist pumping so the rafters can sing. And when the Eels volleyball squad are celebrating a Regional championship, belting out the school fight song with the entire student population at mid-court, Drelick is the one with the Regional champions nameplate above her head, singing with a ferocious face as if she is still competing in a match.

"When I get on the floor it is just beast-mode time," said Drelick. "It just stays."

All of the Eels found themselves in some form of "beast-mode" Tuesday night, as Clay City (19-10) swept the Indiana School for the Deaf (36-3) 25-13, 25-18, and 26-24 to win the school's first Regional championship in girls sport.

"For us to do it the first time after we had just won the sectional not too many days ago, it just feels great," said Clay City Head Coach LuAnne Anderson. "I just can't even describe the emotions. I feel so happy for my girls, and for all the Clay City girls of past seasons who never got this opportunity. It's just wonderful."

The match pitted two programs that had never competed for a Regional championship before, and a jam-packed Clay City gym built up an atmosphere that seemed to have both teams on edge during the first set.

"It was a total mix of emotions," said Drelick. "This was just a different match-up for us. We had never played anything like this before, and it was just so different. Trying to stay focused was just a big thing for the most part."

Clay City seemed to settle their nerves earlier than the Indiana School for the Deaf, who never quite found a groove during the first set.

"I think we were just a little bit tense because it was Regionals," said School for the Deaf Head Coach Aimee Bippus. "This was a big thing for us, really a big thing for us. The second and third we started clicking well."

However the Orioles found a way to regroup, and behind the blay of Jasmine Jeter, TraciAnn Hogland, and Giuletta Maucere, the Orioles held the lead up to a 13-7 advantage in the second set before the Eels stormed back.

"We were just playing great defense," said Anderson. "It seemed that we were digging balls where ever we were at, we got the balls to target, and we just played confident."

After going down 2-0, the Indiana School for the Deaf received a standing ovation from their visiting crowd and fought courageously throughout the third set. The Orioles looked as if they were going to possibly sneak one game on the Eels, taking a 24-21 lead after Maucere spiked a long rally down the a point, but the Orioles seemed to run out of gas just then. The Eels tied the ended the Orioles rally for point 22 and then followed up with three straight kills from Drelick to put Clay City up 25-24.

"It was intense," said Drelick about those final few points, speaking at about 100 mph. "You feel it in every bone of your body."

An ill-fated bump over the net by the Orioles clinched the Regional championship for Clay City, leading to a mob of students rushing the court. Off to the side the Indiana School for the Death watched, but an amazing year that saw firsts for the program gave no reason for any of the girls to hang their heads low.

"We've been through a lot this year," said Bippus. "We were the Deaf Tournament champions, we won our first ever Sectional, and we were hoping for a Regional championship. But we gave it our all, and they worked hard all season long."

As for the Eels, who were led by Drelick's 14 kills, Emmie Kittle's 28 assists, and Callie Dayhuff's 21 digs, they will continue their season of first by heading to the Logotee Semi-State this Saturday.

"We know we have a big tough challenge of head being one of only eight teams left in the State playing in Class A Volleyball," said Anderson. "But we aren't going to change anything, we are just going to keep playing volleyball.

Playing volleyball in beast-mode that is.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times