WILLIAMSPORT – Even though Frankfort Adena and Williamsport Westfall combined to graduate nearly a dozen varsity letter winners a year ago, these two perennial volleyball powers did what all great programs do – they reloaded.
Instead of enduring a rebuilding process where there is no pressure to win, these two great programs have combined returning stars with many new faces, as they entered Tuesday’s Scioto Valley Conference game as the only two remaining unbeatens in SVC play. After Westfall came from behind to steal game one, the Lady Warriors scratched and clawed their way back en route to a four set road victory 24-26, 25-20, 25-23, 25-21.
“This was a typical Adena versus Westfall volleyball game,” Westfall head coach Lori Merriman said. “It was a great atmosphere and I am proud of how our kids played. Early on I thought the kids were nervous, which is to be expected when you consider half of our lineup was experiencing a match like this for the first time, but once they settled in and relaxed they hung in with a great team. In the end, we just couldn’t finish the deal, but hopefully this is something we can build on as we move forward.”
Adena seemed to have complete control of game one leading by as much as eight points at 20-12 thanks to an early run of five unanswered serving points from Brittney Snyder; however, after a mini Westfall run cut the deficit to 21-16, the Lady Mustangs ran off seven straight points behind the serving of freshman Haley Gabriel and the net play of Suzy Gantz to take a 22-21 lead late in the set.
Adena answered Westfall’s run. Following an Ashley Jordan kill that put Adena on top 24-22, the Adena crowd came to its feet acknowledging their Lady Warriors being just a point away from capturing game one. The young Westfall squad would not only survive back-to-back game-points, but would eventually lead at 25-24 when Cassie Sowers unloaded the second of two consecutive kills. On the pursuing point, Jordan’s kill attempt sailed long completing the Westfall comeback at 26-24.
With Adena facing the early deficit the two-shade blue responded like champions. The Lady Warriors scored the first four points and maintained an advantage throughout the second set. The Mustangs did draw within two at 12-10, but the serving of Kristin Yates and the net play of Jordan helped Adena score five of the next six points to extend its lead to 17-11 – a lead the Warriors would maintain on their way to a 25-20 second set victory.
Throughout this set, all-league libero Casi Coy started to stabilize the Adena defense giving setter Megan Purdin a better opportunity to deliver the ball to Jordan, Yates and the other Warrior hitters.
This time it was Westfall that responded in a big way. The Lady Mustangs stormed out to a 7-3 advantage early in game three thanks to three blocks and a kill from their All-Ohioan Sowers, and then extended their lead to 14-6 when senior Stephanie Marvin served six straight points including a pair of aces. The Mustangs were also aided by three Suzy Gantz kills during this stretch.
Westfall would still lead comfortably at 20-13 and appeared to be on their way to taking control, but Adena responded with an 8-1 run to tie the game at 21. The two teams would be even at 22 and then again at 23, but it was the Warriors who found a way to nail down the final two points of the pivotal game three to win 25-23.
“Our serve-receive has been a problem early in the year and it really cost us again in game three tonight,” Merriman said. “You give Adena a lot of credit for attacking us with some good spot-serving. Ashley (Jordan) really got started rattling off some good serves there in game three and we just didn’t have an answer. Obviously, if we could have finished off game three it could have been a different story, but give Adena credit for battling back and making the plays when they had to make them.”
Early in game four, Westfall looked as if they were out of runs as Adena jumped out to an early 5-0 advantage, but again it was Sowers that led her team back. The senior star recorded eight kills during a stretch that had Westfall chipping away at Adena’s lead, and eventually the Mustangs had gotten within one of the Warriors at 18-17. Once again the Lady Warriors had an answer.
After a pair of kills from Yates, back-to-back Westfall mistakes had the Mustangs facing match-point. A kill from Jordan sealed the deal for the Warriors giving them a 25-21 game four victory and more importantly a four-set conference road win that has them all alone at the top of the SVC standings.
In the losing effort Sowers recorded 24 kills, 14 assists, 14 digs, and four blocks. Gantz continues to emerge as one of the league’s elite talents, as the junior middle-hitter collected 14 kills and recorded three blocks. Westfall also got 14 digs from both Nicole Ratliff and Haley Gabriel while Hannah Gabriel dished-out 23 assists.
“I thought Suzy (Gantz) played great tonight,” Merriman said. “Her becoming consistent is a big key for us. You know Cassie is going to be Cassie and our young kids are continuing to improve, so Suzy playing at the level she played at tonight takes us to a completely different level.”
Adena (6-1, 4-0) will now return home Thursday to host Huntington, who following its straight set win over Paint Valley Tuesday improves to 3-1 and remains just one game back of Adena. Westfall (4-1, 3-1) will travel to Zane Trace on Thursday.
In other southern Ohio volleyball action, Unioto beat Southeastern in straight sets, Wheelersburg needed four sets to put away Waverly, and Chillicothe defeated Jackson in five sets.