Newberry paces all small school with 3 selections

2022 All Area small school volleyball - Williston's Grace Dola and Union County's Jaycee Davis 2
Williston's Grace Dola (left) and Union County's Jaycee Davis led their teams to the Class 1A state semifinal round this season. (Photos and graphic by C.J. Gish)
Photos and graphic by C.J. Gish

This past fall, two area volleyball schools made the Class 1A state semifinals, while another just missed out on a second straight state semifinal appearance in 2A.

Union County (Lake Butler), led by first-year coach Tifani Knox, won a district title this season and advanced to the Class 1A state semifinals.

Meanwhile, Williston lost in the 1A-District 8 title game but rallied past district champion Glades Day (Belle Glade) in the regional final to advance to the state semifinals.

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It was nearly back-to-back state semifinals for 2A-District 4 champion Oak Hall, which lost in 5 sets in the regional final to Christ’s Church (Jacksonville).

The trio combined to place almost half of the 14 players on the Mainstreet Daily News All Area Volleyball first and second teams for small schools, presented by Bosshardt Realty.

Union County's Jaycee Davis with a hit against Bell on Tuesday.
Photo by C.J. Gish Union County’s Jaycee Davis racked up 372 kills and 61 aces to lead the Tigers this season.

A panel of local sportswriters and coaches chose the All Area teams from Mainstreet’s eight-county coverage area. All 30 players and coaches will receive commemorative plaques to recognize their accomplishments.

Outside hitter Jaycee Davis of Union County was named to the first team after leading the Tigers to a 20-8 record and a final four appearance.

Davis, who finished third in the voting for the 1A Player of the Year, had 372 kills this past season. The senior, who led the team with a .252 hitting percentage, also led the team with 61 aces.

“She was the backbone of our team,” Knox said. “She is one of the toughest athletes I have ever coached and gives her all for her teammates every match. She is a natural leader and it was a pleasure to coach her.  I can’t wait to see where her future takes her.”

Joining Davis as outside hitter on the first team is Grace Dola of Williston (19-11), which advanced to its first state semifinal since 2017.

“Back in the summer our coaching staff went to Grace and asked her to move from her true position middle blocker to outside hitter,” said first-year Williston coach Kevin Tiller. “She took on that role and ran with it. She was a 6-rotation player for us this season and an incredible leader for us on the floor.”

Dola finished her junior season with 252 kills.

“Grace took over multiple matches in the playoffs and put her team on her back through the great run that we had,” Tiller said. “I am excited to see what her senior season has to hold.”

Dixie County’s Paris Williams and Newberry’s Alexis Boyd were named to the first team as middle blockers.

Williams, a junior, had 198 kills (.216 hitting percentage), 151 blocks, and 52 digs for the Bears (12-13), who won the 1A-District 7 title against Newberry but were swept by Glades Day in the regional semifinals.

“Paris is a super competitive athlete who has not scratched the tip of the iceberg yet,” said Dixie County coach Jim Bendel. “Paris has an amazing vertical leap a cannon for an arm and a sense of where to be to get her hands on the ball to make a block. We can’t wait to see how much better she becomes over the off season in preparation for her senior campaign.”

Boyd led the Panthers (11-16) with 128 blocks as a senior. She also added 163 kills for 1A-District 7 runner-up Newberry, which lost in five sets to Williston in the opening round of the 1A state playoffs.

“Dominant at the middle position and a huge disruptor at the net,” said Newberry coach Hank Rone. “She has great timing and leaves Newberry as one of the best blockers we’ve ever had. We will miss her energy she brings to court. When she makes a huge play on the net, she always fired up her teammates.”

Newberry's Sarah Watson with a hit against Dixie County's Paris Williams on Thursday.
Photo by C.J. Gish Dixie County’s Paris Williams (in red) had 198 kills and 151 blocks for the Bears this season.

Following a state semifinal appearance last year, Oak Hall School (24-5) narrowly missed a second straight trip.

Junior outside hitter Pene Moser was instrumental to the Eagles’ success this year with 407 kills in addition to being a 6-rotation serve receiver and one of the top blockers and defenders on the team. She was second on Oak Hall’s team with 263 digs.

“Pene’s leadership was priceless and her 2022, on-court performances could fill a highlight reel,” said Oak Hall coach Perry McDonald. “Pene is truly a special player who stepped up repeatedly at big moments to lead Oak Hall to victory.”

Perry’s daughter, Cassidy, was named to the first team as a setter after accumulating 667 assists, 122 kills, 64 aces and 30 blocks as a sophomore.

“Cassidy did a superlative job shifting into the role of being a full-time setter and had a breakout season that helped catalyze Oak Hall’s success this fall,” said her dad. “Cassidy’s killer instinct and intense competitive drive motivated her teammates and propelled Oak Hall to an unexpected 24-win season including a district championship and a championship at the 16-team Keswick Christian Invitational. Cassidy’s knowledge, diversity of skills and court awareness made her a sneaky and frustratingly difficult player to defend.”

Rounding out the first team is libero Malana Kennard of Newberry, who played middle back libero and led her team with 565 digs.

“Malana followed in the footsteps of some great liberos at Newberry,” Rone said. “She didn’t miss a beat and did a great job this year for us. Only a sophomore, we expect a lot more out of her the next two years. One of the best all-around athletes at the school.”

Seniors Karley Jerrels of Williston and Ashlee Thomas of Bell were named to the second team as outside hitters.

Jerrels, who was on varsity since her 8th-grade year, was second on the team behind Dola with 219 kills.

“Karley has grown leaps and bounds each year,” Tiller said. “She will finish her career here at WMHS just short of 1000 kills. Karley led our team this year with over 50 aces and was a 6-rotation player for us. She will be missed in this program for her leadership and intensity on the floor.”

Thomas, a senior who has played for coach Drue Barry since her 7th-grade year, had 327 kills for the Bulldogs (14-11), who were swept by Union County in the 1A-District 6 semifinals and narrowly missed the postseason.

“She has been the type of player all coaches want in their program,” Barry said. “From a work ethic standpoint, Ashlee has been one of hardest working athletes I have had the privilege to coach. She has been a big reason we have had the success we have enjoyed at Bell High School.”

Oak Hall's Cassidy McDonald (12) leads the 2A seventh-ranked Eagles in assists, blocks and service points.
Photo by C.J. Gish Oak Hall’s Cassidy McDonald (12) racked up 667 assists, 122 kills and 64 aces this season.

Thomas played a huge role in Bell winning several district and regional championships and advancing to the state semifinals her sophomore season.

“Ashlee also shines in the classroom and community,” Barry said. “Her leadership style has been to lead from the front, don’t ask anyone else to do something you are not willing to do. She will definitely be missed in our program, but we are excited for her future.”

Union County’s Jailyn Simmons and Dixie County’s Anna Ellison joined the second team as middle blockers.

As a freshman, Simmons was second on the team with 168 kills. She added 64 digs, 20 aces, and a team-leading 46 blocks.

“She worked hard to do her part and get better each game,” Knox said. “Jailyn has a drive to win and wants the ball. Watching her improve throughout the season makes me excited to see what she can do in the years to come.” 

Ellison finished second behind Williams with 173 kills. The senior also finished second with 116 blocks.

“Anna is a great team player and constant cheerleader on and off the court for her teammates,” Bendel said. “Anna was willing and more then able to move positions during our season after some team injuries. She hit over .400 after the change in position. Anna’s jump serve became on offensive weapon as she continued to fine tune it over the course of the season.”

Kennedy Walker of Branford made the second team at the right-side hitter position.

Walker helped lead the Bucs (19-7) to a district runner-up finish behind Union County, who they also lost to in Lake Butler in the opening round of the 1A state playoffs.

The junior led her team with 204 kills and 42 blocks, and she tied for first with 59 aces. She finished third with 212 digs.

Rounding out the second team are setter Evalyn Guild of Newberry and junior libero Delaney Robertson of Countryside Christian.

Guild, who transferred from Washington her sophomore year, set the school record in a season with 742 assists as a senior.

Dixie County's Jaidyn Brown with a hit against Newberry's Alexis Boyd (10) and Chloe Jones (2)
Photo by C.J. Gish Newberry’s Alexis Boyd (10) led the Panthers with 128 blocks and added 163 kills this season.

Evalyn never waivers and is one of the most even-tempered players I ever coached,” Rone said. “She never set until last year. She is a great point guard for our basketball team and she worked very hard to learn the craft of becoming a setter and she exceeded all my expectations. Her leadership will be missed most of all on the court.”

Robertson, who has been on varsity for three years, helped lead the Minutemen (10-12) to a district runner-up spot behind Oak Hall and a postseason appearance.

“Delaney is constantly working on improving her game and absolutely loves the game of volleyball,” said Countryside Christian coach Michelle Seibold. “As a defensive player myself, I have always pushed her and also wanted defensive players to be recognized for their contributions to the game.”

Robertson finished with 480 digs for an average of 7.9 digs per set.

“With our school being such a small school in number (and in height too), we only had eight varsity players this year and we did not have great height on our team,” Seibold said. “Our competition is almost always taller than we are and can often hit over our block, so Delaney has been a vital part of our success as we have to have great back-row play.”

1A/2A – 1st Team

OH – Jaycee Davis, Union County

OH – Grace Dola, Williston

OH – Pene Moser, Oak Hall School

MB – Paris Williams, Dixie County

MB – Alexis Boyd, Newberry

Setter – Cassidy McDonald, Oak Hall School

Libero – Malana Kennard, Newberry

1A/2A – 2nd team

OH – Karley Jerrels, Williston

OH – Ashlee Thomas, Bell

MB – Jailyn Simmons, Union County

MB – Anna Ellison, Dixie County

RS – Kennedy Walker, Branford

Setter – Evalyn Guild, Newberry

Libero – Delaney Robertson, Countryside

Honorable mention:

Bell – Karys York (Jr), Tracie Smith (Sr), Sydney Waddle (Sr)

Branford – Jadyn Mosley (Jr), Madyson Sikes (So), Andi Sabourin (So), Erika Rioux (So)

Chiefland – Claire Horne (Jr), Lauren Bailey (Jr)

Dixie County (Cross City) – Kailey Edmonds (So), Peyton Hatcher (Sr)

Fort White – Ciara Byrd (Sr), Madison Brown (Sr)

Newberry – Hannah Rone (Sr), Sarah Watson (Jr), Chloe Jones (So)

Oak Hall School – Ave Scorpio (Jr), Amelia Chen (Fr), Haley Janes (Fr)

Trenton – Chloe Wilkerson (Sr)

Union County (Lake Butler) – Emily Wilson (Sr), Journey Crim (Jr), Jordan Hendricks (Jr), Kamryn Southerland (So)

Williston – Morgan Geiger (Jr), Jenna Yancey (Jr), Shayna Geiger (Jr)

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