Landon Troyer photos
Sometimes when a winning team needs to dig deep for a win, they reach back and find an extra gear, make a big play and finish the deal.
But when you are a team searching for ways to win, when victories aren’t coming easily, sometimes those key moments aren’t so easy to produce.
While the West Holmes Lady Knights volleyball team hasn’t won many games this season, the youthful Lady Knights have shown signs of improvement over the past several games.
On Tuesday, Oct. 2 when West Holmes absolutely had to come up with those big plays against Mansfield Madison, when they had their backs to the wall, one point from defeat, they reached back and found a way to win.
After West Holmes won the first two games, Madison took games three and four and forced a deciding fifth game to 15, winner take all.
Despite falling behind early, the Lady Knights found their way and eked out a thrilling 19-17 victory in game five to claim the win in a heart-pounding 25-15, 25-22, 23-25, 22-25, 19-17 thrill ride.
“We never gave up, never quit working hard,” sophomore Megan Jones said. “We kept communicating and worked together, and when things got tough, we dug in and kept working together as one unit. Hopefully this helps us grow and gives us more confidence.”
The Lady Knights came out in game one all business and set about destroying the Rams with a terrific game. Game two saw Madison close the gap, but West Holmes continued its winning ways.
However, things went from cheery to scary in a flash when the Rams came back and captured games three and four in tight fashion.
“I told the girls if they wanted to play five, OK, but I would prefer if we win it quicker than that,” Mast said. “Before the game I said to our kids that they were going to want this as much as we did because we are both in the lower end of the OCC and we both want to prove we can win. This game mattered to us. It mattered because it determines how we go forward and approach the rest of the season. It matters because we need to learn how to win.”
Mast said she felt like her team eased up and took a few plays off when they built the large lead, and then they had to find that fire again.
Madison was giving Jones fits at the net, and West Holmes had to find other solutions to solve the Rams’ defense. They found a large dose of it in Chloe Roach, who played front row and back row like it was a state tournament game.
“We stopped moving our feet, and it says a lot about our leadership and especially Chloe, who really played great tonight,” Mast said. “I thought Harmony stepped up, and we did a good job of keeping the ball in play tonight and forcing them to make the mistakes.”
Game five didn’t have a good feel to begin with as Madison pushed to a lead early on, but again West Holmes fought back. The two teams then battled evenly to 15, and Madison took a 17-16 lead and had the serve for the win. West Holmes would get the tying score when Bella Strother delivered with a game-tying kill. Now with the serve it would be Jones, who was shut down much of the game but would deliver. Jones gave her team an 18-17 lead with a kill. Then she stuffed a kill attempt, blocking it back on to Madison’s side for the game-winner.
“We fell behind in game five, and I told Nadia [Rouse] that we were going to win this game. We just have to believe that,” Mast said. “She does such a good job of communicating things to the rest of the team, and then we just had a bunch of our younger kids step up and make plays.”
Mast also said setter Sarah Anderson did a great job of finding other players other than Jones when Madison keyed on her.
“She did a better job of distributing the ball to others even though I know she wanted to go to Megan,” Mast said. “They were camped on Megan, and we figured things out and got it done.”
The contributors on this night were many, and on a night where Madison’s two big net-minders were busy shutting down the hard-hitting Jones, West Holmes needed everyone to step up.
Sarah Anderson had a nice game, producing 12 digs, five service aces, four kills and a block. Roach had 18 digs, three aces and 13 kills. Emily Anderson recorded 19 digs. Colista Gamerstfelder returned from injury to produce a dig, two kills and a block. Strother had three digs and four kills, Abbie Allison collected four digs, Skylar Patterson added a dig and a pair of kills, and Rouse doled out 28 digs with a service ace. Claire Reynolds had two digs, a kill and a block. Jones tacked on four digs, an ace, 12 kills and one block. Harmony Mast recorded 28 digs, four aces and nine kills, and Paige Race added five digs.
“I postulated from the beginning of the season that we are a hard-working team. We just needed to figure things out,” Mast said. “I think we are starting to find that now.”