Two first-year head coaches squared off at The Dungeon in West Holmes High School Saturday, August 20, and one of them was going to get their first volleyball win for either West Holmes or Dover.
A fast start, and a huge finish in game five helped the Lady Knights earn a huge W for their new head coach Savannah Moore.
West Holmes claimed a thrilling 25-22, 25-19, 26-28, 21-25, 15-9 victory, and if Moore’s intensity and zeal for the game rub off on her team, it should be a thrill-ride season for the Lady Knights, who looked very good in winning the first two games.
“We had a lot of kids step up and play big in their roles,” said Moore, who rarely took a seat throughout the contest. “My job is to provide a lot of energy. I think that rubs off on the kids, and if they play with that same kind of all-out energy, and we lose, then I have no problem with that.”
For Dover, it was all about executing, and they were able to right the ship after game two.
“We hung in there and made some adjustments that got us going,” said first-year Dover head coach Jason Lambert. “I was proud of the way our kids didn’t hang their heads when we got down 2-0.”
That major turnaround started with the powerful play of Lauren Kinsey, who started taking over in game three and carried that success over into game four. It looked like the Crimson Tornadoes team was fueled by her passion, and that pushed them to new heights, but coming back was something Dover had to earn.
The Crimson Tornadoes trailed in game three 7-3, then rallied and took a13-8 edge. West Holmes then fought back, within one point at 15-14. Dover would then maintain its narrow lead as they took advantage of a number of unforced errors from West Holmes and a couple of big kills by Samantha Blair and Kinsey.
West Holmes wouldn’t give in, and after a Makenna Mulhall block, and a kill, and another kill form Lauren Park, the game was tied at 22.
It would be tied again at 23 and 24then at 25 and 26 as Dover clung to life and the Lady Knights fought to win the match.
However, Kinsey would power home back-to-back kills to give Dover the win in game three.
Game 4 saw Dover push to an early 15-9 lead, but West Holmes got on a roll, cutting that lead to 16-14. Se3veral more unforced errors and kills from McLaughlin and Emmerson Wallick gave Dover a seven-point lead it would not relinquish in winning 25-21.
The momentum was with Dover, but West Holmes wasted little time in establishing a game plan for the fifth and deciding game.
That would be to load up their horse and ride her, and Park came through, delivering three nasty kills to go with several Dover errors, for a 6-2 West Holmes lead.
That lead grew when Sarah Anderson’s ace made it 10-5, and another Park hammer job made it 11-6. Dover would get back to within 13-9, but could get no closer in falling 15-9, giving Moore her first varsity victory.
“I love the way we picked up our intensity and took control early in game five,” said Moore. “Losing two sets in a row coming into game five is tough, but I our girls didn’t care about that. We came out and took pride and executed. We weren’t going to go down without a fight, and I could tell halfway through game five we weren’t going to lose because the kids were really engaged at that point. I thought Kacie Leppla did a great job of finding Lauren wherever she was in that last game, and that can’t be overlooked.”
West Holmes’ inspired play coupled with Dover’s miscues lead to a large hole from which Dover could not dig out.
“We gave away too much early in that fifth game that put us in a hole,” said Lambert. “We just didn’t play as cleanly as we had in game three and four. Early this year we have been fairly slow starters and then we’ve really kind of turned things around as the games progress. Today we did that, but then we had way too many unforced errors in game five, and you can’t do that against a program like West Holmes.”
With Moore taking over a program that has been extremely successful under former coach Jim Park, she said the goal of continuing that winning tradition is something they have talked at length about, and she said despite the loss of seven key seniors, they aren’t about to use that excuse.
“We know what we have, and we expect to win a lot of game,” said Moore. “We have set our goals this year pretty high, and we are a very capable team with a lot of talent.”
For the winners, Leppla recorded five kills, four blocks, 40 sets and 17 digs, while Park crushed her way to a whopping 29 kills, adding 22 digs and a pair of blocks. Emily Anderson had 36 digs while Sarah Anderson added 18 digs. And three service aces.