On Tuesday, August 28 at West Holmes High School, a key match-up took place between Ohio Cardinal Conference titans, top-ranked Lexington and number two West Holmes.
For Jim Park’s Lady Knights, it was a moment of proving themselves, showing that their veteran leaders could take control, a time for the youngsters to showcase exactly how they could help this team win big games.
Park had to love what he saw in the effort, as West Holmes rallied from a 2-1 deficit to claim a thrilling 3-2 victory that saw the Lady Knights take control when they absolutely had to.
“Our kids who we expect to play a dominant role played dominant tonight,” said Park. “Everything, passing, serving, hitting, everything. Raichelle (Erman) did a great job of setting for Kara (Park, out with an injury), and Laina (Snyder) was absolutely unstoppable. Paiten (Strother) also had a great game.”
It didn’t start out great, West Holmes dropping a 25-18 game to Lexington. But a solid service game in the second spotted the Lady Knights to a 19-10 lead in game two. But Lexington isn’t top ranked for nothing, and rallied to close to within 21-19 before West Holmes closed them out 25-20 on a pair of Lexington errors.
Game three was a thriller, the two juggernauts trading punches, neither team able to pull away until Lexington forged a 19-15 edge. But West Holmes rallied, with Mariah Straits getting a big kill, along with a Snyder hammer and an ace by Makayla Palm. By the time Snyder recorded yet another kill and a block, the score stood at 22-22.
West Holmes eventually took a 25-24 lead when Snyder slammed home another shot, but then began playing tentative, letting several opportunities to close out the Minutemen slip away, eventually dropping a 27-25 game.
If there was any panic in the Lady Knights, it never surfaced, as they systematically pulled away in game four, winning 25-19 on the strength of freshman striker Erman, who scored four consecutive points with West Holmes leading 11-10 to advance the score to 15-11, and West Holmes never looked back.
“Raichelle had that look, and I told Rachelle (Morrison), no matter what you do, get her the ball. Don’t look at her, don’t say anything to her, just get her the ball. She was really in the zone.”
That led to game five, one of those short games to 15, where early momentum is everything.
Early momentum went to the Lady Knights, when Snyder absolutely scorched the game’s first point. West Holmes then grabbed a 5-3 lead when Erman scored again, and began systematically pulling away. Snyder’s kill made it 10-7. Lexington hit one long. Snyder belted another one home. The Minutemen were called for a lift. By the time Snyder scored on a block and hit home the winner at 15-7, West Holmes had proven plenty.
“Give our kids credit,” said Park. “Character revealed itself in adversity when we got behind. We played out bets when we were down, and I thought we played to win and they played not to lose. We stayed aggressive when the game was on the line.
“These are the top two teams in the OCC, and we felt we had to have this one at home against a very good team. We did what we had to do.”
For Snyder, it was a fun night of dominating play in long stretches, as she relished the go-to role in crunch time.
“Whatever it takes to win,” said Snyder. “Last game, it was Paiten. I was on and it was me tonight. We knew this would be a tough match, but after game three, we talked in the huddle about how they thought they had the advantage and we needed to take that away from them by being aggressive.”
Straits said that the key to the comeback was continuing to play aggressively, even when they were behind, and the Lady Knights never took the foot off the pedal in pushing the issue.
“What a great win,” said Straits. “We are ranked right up there with them in the league, and we knew this was a tough one. It was really great to come out here and play well to get a win. I think we played well as a team.”
For the night, Snyder pounded down 31 kills, with Strother adding 19, while Morrison chipped in with 32 sets for West Holmes. In addition, freshmen Palm had a stellar game in the back row while adding four service aces.
The win moves West Holmes to 2-0 on the young campaign, but the confidence gained in this one may serve the team well as they continue to mesh and grow.