The Western Albemarle volleyball team was champing at the bit to get on the floor Wednesday night to avenge last week’s five-set loss at Wilson Memorial.
That motivation served the Warriors well early on.
Coach Julie Radlinski’s team won the first two sets and looked in total control of the match. The Green Hornets didn’t back down, however, and won the next three sets to secure a 14-25, 20-25, 25-18, 28-26, 15-11 victory to sweep the season series.
In the previous matchup, the Warriors fell behind early before rallying to win the third and fourth sets to force a fifth and deciding set. Wednesday’s rematch was a reversal of fortunes. Wilson Memorial kept fighting to claw out a win in what could be a potential Region 3C playoff matchup later in the season.
“It was vice versa from the first time as we were the one’s fighting back,” Radlinski said. “I have to give them credit, they are extremely scrappy. They play defense. They cover each other well and that’s what kept them in that game. They outplayed us.”
Western Albemarle (4-4) was clicking on all cylinders in the first two sets as setter Annabella Pandelli had the offense running to perfection. Five different Warriors posted kills in the first set, including three apiece from Sarah Rhea and Brooke Chavez to give the Warriors a 25-14 lead in Game 1.
The second set was more of the same, as middle hitters Katie Carter and Caitlyn Driver combined for five kills and Rhea and Chavez chipped in three apiece to give Western Albemarle a 25-20 win and a 2-0 lead in the match.
“When we just relax and focus on our passing, and execute, those are the things we talk about in practice,” Radlinski said. “Getting those first-ball opportunities in serve receive. We did those things really well in Games 1 and 2 and then we went away from that the rest of the match.”
In need of a spark, Wilson Memorial coach Lauren Grove turned to her two senior standouts to lead the way for the comeback. Cassidy Davis had seven service points, including three aces, to serve out the game for a 25-18 win. Paris Hutchinson had two of the team’s four blocks to give them a spark.
Set 4 was more of the same, as Western Albemarle had no answer for the Green Hornets’ dynamic duo. Davis had six kills and Hutchinson added four kills and a block as Wilson Memorial fought off four match-point chances for the Warriors to tie the fourth set at 28-28. Laura-Kate Major responded with back-to-back aces to give the Green Hornets a 28-26 win and send the match to a fifth and deciding set.
“Volleyball is a big momentum game, and you could feel that momentum was definitely swung in their favor,” Radlinski said. “We were definitely starting on our heels in the fifth set and I’m not totally sure we ever came out of it.”
Wilson Memorial jumped out to a 6-2 lead early in the fifth set before Western Albemarle trimmed the margin to 13-11 on a mishit from the Hornets. Davis hit a winner down the line to give the Green Hornets a match-point opportunity. The Warriors were unable to answer as they hit the volleyed the ball into the net to end the match.
Davis finished with a game-high 17 kills to lead Wilson Memorial. Hutchinson finished with 11 kills, five blocks and 23 assists in the win.
Carter tallied 13 kills to pace Western Albemarle. Rhea and Chavez finished with 11 kills apiece and Driver chipped in eight more.
Radlinski said Wednesday’s match definitely had a postseason feel to it.
“It was a great match, both ways,” Radlinski said. “I think we also played well on our side. I do think that momentum played a big part in it.”