CINCINNATI — Seton High School senior Lucy Cluxton smiles when discussing the encouragement the volleyball team has received this season.
"The Seton community has been just amazing," said Cluxton, an outside hitter who is verbally committed to Northern Kentucky University. "An amazing support system from our parents in our family who are able to go (to the matches) to everyone that we see at school who are like, 'Hey, we watched your game on the livestream last night. You guys are awesome. Keep it up.'"
It has been quite a memorable season for the Saints (17-1), who will play Lakota West in a Division I sectional semifinal at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Sycamore.
"I just don't even think we've had a bond this close since my freshman year," said senior outside hitter Julia Marr, who is committed to Western Michigan. "It's even like that when we're not playing volleyball -- we're always together. It's always a team. I think we have literally formed a sisterhood just within our team."
Seton, ranked No. 12 nationally by MaxPreps, won the Girls Greater Catholic League for the first time since 1997. (The conference was split into two divisions that year as Seton won the Scarlet division and St. Ursula won the Grey.)
Seton athletic director Wendy Smith has watched the progression of the Saints this season. She said Seton is undoubtedly peaking at the right moment during tournament time.
"You could just see them coming together," Smith said. "The trust they have with each other. It's just amazing."
Seton, which has won six state titles in program history, has an abundance of volleyball tradition. That link is evident this season.
"It's really special to play for this team," said senior setter Maggie Jones, who is committed to North Carolina State. "My mom (Betsy Owens Jones) played and she won state when she was a player (in 1996), then she coached (as an assistant on the 2005 state title team). I think being able to play and carry on the tradition and the legacy that she had is really special to me."
Seton coach Kelly Crowley recognizes the significance of this season. He said a turning point of this season came after a four-set loss at Mount Notre Dame on Sept. 8.
Seton defeated Ursuline and St. Ursula in the next seven days. The Saints' confidence soared.
"And then you just felt the change," Crowley said. "You felt that we believe we belong and now what do we have to do to keep pushing forward. So that's kind of what got the ball rolling."
Seton, winners of 12 consecutive matches, has nine seniors including captains Cluxton, Marr and Jones.
"As somebody who's been with these kids since they've been 11 or 12 years old and seen them develop through West Side volleyball and through their school teams and then see where they are today -- it's just really a testament to how hard these three really wanted to be at the top of their game," said Crowley, who also coaches for the Tri-State Elite Volleyball Club. "It's really fun to watch."
Though Seton didn't have its regular student section in its home gym and was limited to 150 or so spectators due to COVID-19 safety measures this season, the Saints helped each other raise the energy level on the court.
"Everyone has kind of just bought into what we're trying to do," Cluxton said. "Our team is really positive, and everyone is just always kind of bringing each other up."