As new West Holmes head volleyball coach Sydney Mast takes over the program, she does so at the end of an era and a new beginning. The end of the era came last season with the graduation of All-Ohioan Lauren Park, whom the Lady Knights relied on the past couple of seasons to lead the way.
Mast now takes the reins of a program that will have to rebuild itself into something different than what it formerly was, a challenge to which Mast said she is excited to take on. However, she might have preferred her team’s initial foray into the 2018 season be against a couple of less-dominant teams.
The Lady Knights stepped into the new season on Saturday, Aug. 18 having to face juggernaut programs in Dover and Indian Valley, two terrifically talented teams.
The Braves took down West Holmes in the opener 25-10, 25-9 and then topped Dover in a thrilling three-set match before Dover dispatched the Lady Knights in the nightcap by a score of 25-14, 25-17.
Despite the loss, Mast said it was a good experience for her inexperienced team as they try to figure out how to grow and lead as a team.
As for her initial game, Mast said the nerves were on high alert as the season opener approached.
“A tri-match is always a tough way to start a season with everything going on, but we did some good things today that we can focus on, and we did some things where we can learn and go back and work on improving.”
West Holmes sports six seniors, all of whom Mast will rely heavily on to contribute leadership and steady play as they assume larger roles in the overall scheme.
Twins Sarah and Emily Anderson, Colista Gamertsfelder, Regan Wilcox, Abbie Allison, and Skylar Patterson give the Lady Knights some veteran play. So too do juniors Nadia Rouse and Chloe Roach while sophomore Megan Jones grew into a bigger and bigger role last year as a freshman. Hannah Rohr and Lauren Jones are two more sophomores who add to the mix, and Mast has brought two freshmen, Claire Reynolds and Harmony Mast, into the fray. Both should garner time on the floor.
However, on the day, beginning with the Braves, there was too much talent on the other side of the net. Indian Valley’s huge-hitting crew of Kitanna and Kierra Raksehaw, Brenlyn Rostad, and Lexi Brown, along with the strong effort in the back row from libero Lincoln Raymond, was far too strong for West Holmes to stop.
In both contests West Holmes stayed with the Braves early, trailing 5-4 in each contest, only to see Indian Valley get on some huge runs.
It took a grand rally in game three versus Dover for Indian Valley to leave The Dungeon 2-0 as the Braves took off after falling behind 13-9 and never looked back.
Dover got on track early in game one versus the Lady Knights and pushed out to a nice lead and cruised to victory, but in game two West Holmes fell behind early only to battle back to within 20-17. Much of that solid play for West Holmes was created by the play of Megan Jones and courtesy of the serving of Roach, who was hitting hard-knucklers that found daylight and made it tough on the Crimson Tornadoes. Rouse also played a key role in the back row, and West Holmes utilized the freshman Reynolds in an outside hitting attack that allowed them to creep back into the game and make a run.
But in the end, like Indian Valley, Dover’s big-hitting crew, led by Grace Wallace, Samantha Blair and Sawyer Lorentz, went over the top of the Lady Knights down the stretch.
“We had a good day,” Dover coach Beth Mathews said. “We saw some places where we were focusing on improving during the preseason that we got better at, and we saw some things we need to continue to work on. We need games like this early on to see where we are. I thought we played really well against West Holmes, and for the most part we battled with a really talented Indian Valley team, but in the end we just made too many unforced errors to win. Overall it was a very promising start.”
For Mast and the Lady Knights, they will continue to evolve and work on what Mast wants to achieve as she tries to rebuild the program.
She said she wants the kids to have fun while at the same time she wants them to work hard and understand the game so they can improve.
“I want them to develop a sense of accountability to each other as teammates, and right now we are all trying to kind of feel our way through as we grow together,” Mast said. “I don’t want to be one of those coaches who is on her kids all the time, but we are still trying to figure out who we are, and I am still kind of figuring out what kind of coaching style I want to have. In the end we have to be patient, even though that is always hard to do when you want to win now, but I think it is important for the girls to realize that they all have a lot of responsibility out there, and they are accountable for the way they play in the end.”
As for starting the season against two juggernauts, Mast said it would have been nice to play someone who they could walk over for a win, but that isn’t going to make them learn and grow.
“Having two tough teams right off the bat gives us some perspective as to where we are at and where we can get better, and we saw some things we have to work on moving forward. I loved the way we battled back in that Dover game. One of the biggest things for us right now is developing that consistency where we have that energy and enthusiasm, whether we are up 10 or down 10. The score doesn’t matter. You go win one point and win another point and win one point at a time, and we are still trying to wrap our heads around that.”