By JUSTIN RAINS
LINDALE — Behind a trio of players with double-digit kills, the Westwood volleyball team overcame a shaky start to top Troup, 3-1 (20-25, 25-9, 25-22, 25-20), in the area round of the state volleyball playoffs here Saturday.
The win moves the Lady Panthers on to the regional quarterfinals, where they will take on perennial top-10 team White Oak. That match is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday in Athens.
Westwood led 10-4 early in Game 1, but Troup slowly clawed back into the game to take a 21-16 lead.
Westwood fought back and got the game to 21-20 behind kills from Courtney Stanhope and Mi’Kayla Benson. But, that’s as close as the Lady Panthers would get.
Troup ended Game 1 on a 5-0 run to take a 1-0 lead in the match.
Westwood responded in Game 2. The Lady Panthers controlled the game from the beginning, and set a tone for the rest of the match with their 20-9 win to even the match at 1-1.
The teams went back-and-forth in Game 3 before Westwood pulled away and took a commanding 23-15 lead when a Troup kill went out of bounds. But, the Lady Tigers weren’t done.
Troup scored five-straight points, the final coming on a block of a Stanhope kill to make it 23-20.
But, the ensuing Troup serve went long, and three plays later, Stanhope avoided two blockers with a push kill past them to give Westwood the 25-22 win in the game and the 2-1 advantage in the match.
Westwood tapped back into its comeback gene in Game 4, as Troup took a 17-13 lead and grabbed all the momentum, looking as if it might force a decisive Game 5.
But, Marialle Boles got a block to make it 17-14, and Heather Wooden took the serving line, where the match would completely change.
Wooden served for seven-straight points, and when Troup finally got the serve back it was too late and Westwood had a 21-17 lead.
Westwood closed it out not much later, with Boles’ serve falling in between two Troup defenders for the win.
The victory is the first postseason victory for any Westwood team since 2007.
Benson finished with a team-high 13 kills, while Stanhope had 12 and Boles finished with 11.
Wooden finished with a team-high 18 assists, while Neeli Hardison had 15 of her own. Wooden also had four aces, three of which came in the fourth-and-final game.
Natali Muniz added six kills for Westwood, while Markeisha Durham had four kills and four assists.