West Holmes coach Savannah Moore said her team has had a penchant for disappearing at times when it faces really good competition, so what she was looking for coming into the Lady Knights contest with 18-2 New Philadelphia was a little bit of passion and fire.
She got it, as West Holmes competed hard against the Quakers, but New Philadelphia eventually captured a 25-23, 25-20, 25-18 victory to drop the Lady Knights to 11-9.
For New Philadelphia coach Carla Pry, her own objective was to step on West Holmes when it had a chance.
“Don’t let this go on. End this in three, right now,” Pry implored her team before game three.
The Quakers listened, bolting out to a massive 12-3 lead led by senior Emily Tetzloff and junior Sam Malcolm, who manned the net with abandonment in blocking West Holmes and providing the offensive firepower.
But just as it had done all evening, West Holmes didn’t simply wilt, but instead it fought back. Three kills from junior Lauren Park and one each from Kacie Leppla and Sam Hall got West Holmes back in the game at 16-12. When Leppla served up an ace and Park followed suit it was 20-17, and a Kylie Leppla kill made it 20-18.
West Holmes was rolling, but that was about to end, as the Quakers would stem the tide and reel off the game’s final five points, with Malcolm and Aaliyah Currence taking picture-perfect passes from Ellie Gerber and delivering big blows to West Holmes’ hopes. In the end, point 24 for New Phila would last nearly a full minute as both teams exhibited some incredible defensive prowess in digging up kills, diving all over the floor and providing the most entertaining point of the night.
“I came in hoping that we would compete against a really good team, and for the most part we did that,” Moore said. “We have had a tough time coming into these kinds of games and competing. We seem to be going into them thinking they are better than us. That was very encouraging to see us really fight and play hard tonight. I think we are getting better at the right time of the year.”
Getting to game three saw some great back-and-forth play between the two teams. Game one saw them trade the lead several times, with West Holmes playing its best game, and nearly grabbing the lead.
Game two looked like another barn-burner, but leading 10-8, New Phila went on a 10-3 run led by senior Summer Price, who would eventually find her way to the bench with a back issue that kept her out the rest of the night.
Seeing Price go down with the back injury was a bit disconcerting for Pry, because the senior is not only a huge part of the Quakers attack, she is also perhaps its most spirited leader.
“That is a little bit of a concern,” said Pry of Price’s injury, which she aggravated after hurting herself this summer. “She said she just felt something pop. Hopefully it is nothing too major, because with tournament coming up, we are going to need a player who is that court aware.”
Now trailing 22-12, West Holmes waged a big comeback, going on an 8-2 rampage to get within 23-20. That run showcased Park’s impressive skill set at the net, as she took over. Throw in a pair of aces from Cameran Yeager and another one from Kacie Leppla, and the game was on.
However, a recurring theme bit the Lady Knights, as the serve by Kacie Leppla was banged into the net, just when West Holmes was making a big-time run. Leppla wasn’t alone, as several times West Holmes killed momentum by hitting serves into the net.
“Those are killers,” Moore said. “I told the girls we had to serve aggressively to keep their girls out of the system, so I can’t put them at fault there, but we have to miss deep and make them make a decision whether to play a ball or not instead of hitting it into the net. We are literally just handing them points.”
At the same time, West Holmes did some nice things with their serves throughout the evening, including Leppla, whose knuckleball serve is nasty.
With momentum quelled, Park smoked a kill attempt into the net and the game belonged to New Philadelphia.
“We have been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride at times this year when we play up and down, and I really wanted our girls to understand that we are going into tournament time, and we can’t afford to have that happen,” Pry said. “It was nice to see us be aggressive and take command when we had the chance.”
Besides, Pry said there is no telling what would happen if they gave the powerful Park an opportunity to get on a roll.
The Quakers did what they do best in winning the game, buy spreading the ball out all over the floor to utilize their vast array of hitters that kept West Holmes guessing.
“We don’t have a kids who is going to get 20 kills,” Pry said. “We are very balanced, and we are going to spread the wealth. We are at our best when we play like that.”
Moore said competing with that caliber of a team showed her players that they can indeed battle alongside the very best in the area, and she hopes it gives them some momentum and confidence.
She added that she also liked the fact hat her team was in no way satisfied with simply playing well against the Quakers, and that they were upset following the loss, feeling they could have won.
“We are seeing that we can play with these kinds of teams, now we have to figure out how to win them,” Moore said.