What does it take to fire up a team? What will help elicit some emotion and fight?That is the task facing West Holmes volleyball coach Jim Park and his staff as they move ahead in the 2012 season.The talent is undoubtedly there for West Holmes, but Park has watched as his team sprinted out to a 25-11 victory over Triway Sept. 4, then got out to a 17-10 lead in game two, only to go totally flat and get beaten by one player — a freshman.
“We were listless, we didn’t move our feet, and we just played pretty much void of emotion,” said Park of the Triway loss. “We played a lot worse than poorly.”
So when it came to the Lady Knights match-up against Mansfield Madison at the Dungeon on Tuesday, Sept. 4, Park tried to create some game and gimmicks to keep his players involved and excited. It worked early, but that enthusiasm soon faded. However, West Holmes was able to muscle through on sheer talent alone, and forged a four-game win, stopping the Tygers 25-20, 22-25, 25-17 and 25-20.
The one thing the Lady Knights did do well was distribute the ball to a number of hitters. Laina Snyder led the team in kills with 18, while Rachelle Morrison added 14 and Paiten Strother 13, meaning Madison’s defense had to work to locate who would be doing the hitting.
“We tried to set everyone a lot tonight, and get everyone into the flow of things,” said Morrison. “It felt like we had a pretty good attack, but we weren’t too fired up tonight for whatever reason. It’s easy to get going against a team like Lexington where you know you have to play great to beat them. We need to find that attitude against everyone.”
The other thing they did extremely well was serve aces. Snyder and Morrison each had four, while Cara Park and Kendra Martin each had three. Park produced 42 assists on the night, but the passing game struggled at times, although it was a better than the Triway game.
“It was a step in the right direction at least compared to Triway,” said Park. “We actually had an enthusiasm and intensity game we challenged them with tonight, and it worked early on. I thought we had good intensity. Then we fell back into that lackluster mode again. It feels like we are coming out strong and playing hard and then we start to just hope we win rather than go attack aggressively. Instead of driving to defeat our opponent we hope they let us beat them.”
In game one against Madison, the Tygers roared out to a 9-4 advantage before the Lady Knights kicked it into gear. With Park serving, West Holmes reeled off nine straight to take a lead, with Strother doing the job at the net and Kayla Palm playing well in the back row. After getting the lead, West Holmes kept it right there throughout and finished off the Tygers on a Kendra Martin ace.
Game two looked for all the world to belong to West Holmes as well, but eerily, the same thing that happened at Triway and Ashland happened again. Leading with a seemingly insurmountable 11-3 edge, Madison got things going and bolted to a 20-18 lead, which grew to 24-20, and eventually ended in a 25-22 Tygers win.
While Park did a lot of substituting in the game to get his bench players some action, he still felt that when called on, all of his players need to respond and play well, but the passing was faulty throughout the game.
West Holmes regrouped in game three, getting out to a three point lead and holding steady, with Morrison and Strother pounding away early on, then Snyder taking over late, hammering a particularly crushing spike to make it 24-17. Again Martin ended things with an ace, and they handed to game four.
There, the Lady Knights got down early at 6-3, tied things up at 8-8 on back-to-back Strother kills, and this time held firm. Morrison served a pair of aces sandwiched around her back row kill, then Snyder went to work, providing two kills along with a pair of service aces by Martin, making it 19-11.
The victory was nice for West Holmes (3-2, 0-1 in Ohio Cardinal Conference play), but Park continues to toy with line-ups and trying to inspire his team to remain focused and aggressive throughout each game.
“We have to find a way to fix that inability to put a team away when we have the opportunity,” said Park. “We should be 5-0 right now instead of 3-2. Against Ashland we won the first game 25-12 and led the second game 17-11 and did the same thing we did at Triway. We can’t continue to give team’s chances like that, to give them hope.”