West Holmes Volleyball

Tornadoes respond to the challenge in downing Lady Knights in three

Lauren Park played strong in her career finale at WHHS

When number-four-seed Dover hosted number-13-seed West Holmes on Thursday, Oct. 19 at Dover High School, they knew the Lady Knights would be dangerous, if nothing else because of the nasty skills of All-Ohioan Lauren Park.

With a game-plan designed to keep the ball away from the slugging senior, Dover got off to a hot start, survived a pair of scares and posted a 25-14, 25-22, 27-25 victory to advance in the Div. II East district.

Dover got off to a monumental start in game one that set the tone for the evening. With Grace Baranack serving, Dover went on a monster run to grab an early 8-2 lead. West Holmes crawled back to within 8-6, but another huge Dover run that included big hits from Emmerson Wallick and Madison Marshall boosted the Tornadoes’ lead to 15-7. Samantha Blair continued to extend the lead with solid net play, and Dover won an easy 25-14 game.

“We were very prepared for this match, and we just didn’t start strong mentally,” West Holmes head coach Savannah Moore said. “That has been our Achilles’ heel all year long, and I just don’t know why, but we have battled that all season long. You can’t start the first 10 points slow like that and hope to survive against a team like this.”

Game two saw a very different Lady Knights team, and West Holmes jumped all over Dover for a 9-2 lead in a run that included some great play by Nadia Rouse, a Cameron Yeager ace and a pair of Lauren Park kills. However, Dover regrouped and started to claw back into it. Trailing 14-9, the Tornadoes got the serve back and then got three straight kills from Emma Hamm, Wallick and Jordan Kiser. All of a sudden Dover took its first lead at 18-17 when Lorentz recorded a block.

Dover then forged a three-point advantage, and the two teams battled back and forth before a sensational play with Dover leading 20-19 became huge. Rouse and teammate Sarah Anderson both made diving saves on balls near the floor, but Dover put the point away when Kinsey’s kill landed across the net. A Megan Cercone ace put Dover up 22-19, but Dover was able to finish off the game for a 2-0 lead.

“I think after winning the first set so easily, we were a little too confident, and they came out and really played hard in the second,” Kinsey said. “We knew we had to step up again, and we were able to turn things around and come back. That was a huge game for us.”

Dover head coach Jason Lambert agreed.

“That was a big momentum changer,” Lambert said. “I thought we showed a lot of poise, and our leaders really came up big, calmed us down and kept us focused at that moment. Last year I think we would have given up at that point, but this group has shown a tendency to fight for everything they can get, and it paid off.”

Moore said her team didn’t take advantage of the golden opportunity it had made for itself and let one slip away.

“The other team is going to do some good things, and we allowed their good things to compound by turning into bad things for us, and we lost our energy and sense of urgency,” Moore said of the Lady Knights. “That is a game we can’t afford to give away. We’ve got to learn how to put that in the win column.”

Having dropped the first game badly and frittered away a huge lead in game two, West Holmes was up against the ropes and needed a boost. It nearly got it from Park, their All-Ohioan.

Moore and company weren’t going to go down without a fight, and during the transition between the second and third game, Moore said she pulled Park aside and had a chat.

“I told her that we didn’t have anyone stepping up to help her, so since this is your senior year, you’re going to get every single ball,” Moore said. “If we lose this game, we were going to go down with our best player going at it.”

Combined with the back row play of Rouse and Yeager, the Lady Knights went to work. West Holmes started playing free and easy, and the team was as focused as it’s been all season.

The two teams basically traded points until late in the game when a pair of calls went in Dover’s favor. The first came with West Holmes up 22-20. Park crushed a ball that was blocked by a pair of Dover defenders, but the ball careened out of play by several feet. However, the official ruled it was touched by Regan Wilcox, who stood several feet away from the play. Eventually Dover’s Sawyer Lorentz slammed home a pair of winners to tie things at 23. Dover then took a 24-23 lead, but an unforced error and a Park kill gave the lead back to West Holmes at 25-24. Dover’s Kinsey then stroked a spike that hit the net and appeared to ricochet off of Wilcox. The officials initially ruled the ball hit only the net, which would have given West Holmes a 26-24 win and extended the match. But after further review, the officials got the call right, calling it a deflection off of Wilcox.

Now West Holmes had to regroup, having left the court thinking it had won a game.

“I preach that when that kind of thing happens, it’s no big deal. It’s only one point,” Moore said. “But honestly it is very difficult to come back mentally after something like that happens. To be so fired up after thinking we had won to have to go back out and regroup is a difficult task for any team.”

It was for the Lady Knights. A kill by Lorentz gave Dover the lead, and when Sawyer Campbell dumped a floater serve into no-man’s land for an ace, the Tornadoes got the victory.

“We got some nice output across the board tonight,” Lambert said. “Everybody played well.”

As for game planning to defend the Lady Knights, Lambert said it all boiled down to trying to keep the ball away from Park as much as possible. “You try to keep the ball away from their setter so she can’t always get the perfect swing she needs,” Lambert said. “Still, you can’t shut her down.”

Lambert went on to say that his Tornadoes had a heavy hitter that came on at the right time.

“(Lorentz) started a little slow tonight, but she really came on strong late and picked up momentum, and she saved her best for the end,” Lambert said.

The Tornadoes (19-4) advance to face Indian Valley in what should be a sensational district contest. Dover lost to the Braves earlier this season, but Lambert said the team’s strength of schedule has prepared them to face the Braves, who disposed of River View 25-15, 20-25, 25-18, 25-12.

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