CRESTVIEW — Oct. 23 was a banner day for Davidson Middle School's volleyball team as the Panthers won their first Okaloosa County championship. The Panthers claimed the title with a 25-21, 25-22 sweep of Ruckel Middle School.


CRESTVIEW — Oct. 23 was a banner day for Davidson Middle School's volleyball team as the Panthers won their first Okaloosa County championship.



The Panthers claimed the title with a  25-21, 25-22 sweep of Ruckel Middle School.



For Coach Toni Toney, the win was the culmination of five years of work.



“This is something we’ve been working for ever since I started,” she said. “(With) every team, it seemed like we were almost there. We were like second place, all the time.



“This year, we ended up winning it, and it was too sweet.”



Making it all the sweeter was the fact the Panthers beat Ruckel to avenge their only loss of the season.



“Yes,” Toney said, “we got some revenge, and on their home court.”



Toney said she realized the Panthers won when Shannon Clausman scored nine straight points in serve.



But even before the season started, Toney saw something special in this team.



“These girls would work out on their own in the summer,” she said. “They were just that dedicated. At the beginning of the season they were determined that they were going to take it.”



The team comprised nine eighth-graders: Clausman, Randi Small, Riley Edwards, Olivia Potts, Lindsay Huckabee, Caitlin Black, Mackenna Murphy, Elizabeth Toney and Grace Melton and one seventh-grader, Georgia Small.



“I think the success was because these girls have been together three years,” Coach Toney said. “We had one newcomer and that was Olivia Potts; she’s been with us two years.



“They play club (volleyball) together. They work out in the summer together. They play beach together so they knew each other and they understood what assistant Coach Gabby (Austin) and I were teaching them.”



As Toney anticipates watching the players develop, taking their skills to Crestview High School and Coach Kathy Combest next year, she’s already thinking about another championship in 2015.



“I’m sending Coach Combest a great squad, but my seventh-graders went undefeated so I’m very optimistic about the season,” she said. “We are going to work just as hard as we worked these other girls.



“We are going to try to repeat, but I’m just happy for these girls and I’m optimistic about the future.”



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