By JUSTIN RAINS
There was a little push-back, but in the end the Westwood volleyball team remains perfectly on schedule.
Despite some early missteps, the Lady Panthers swept past visiting Trinity Tuesday, 3-0 (25-16, 25-15, 25-12), remaining perfect in District 19-2A. The win also sets up a huge match for Westwood Friday, when it travels to Elkhart.
With a win over their in-county rivals, the Lady Panthers — who clinched a playoff spot last week — can clinch the district title.
“I think, anytime that teams step up...that’s good for my kids. They need stuff like that,” WHS coach Janae Evans said. “I want them to step up to that challenge and accept it.”
Tuesday’s win didn’t come without a little stress for Evans and her team. The Lady Panthers started fast, taking a 15-3 lead in Game 1, and looked primed to run away and hide.
But, Trinity didn’t fold, and the Lady Tigers slowly clawed back, getting to within 21-13 when Evans called a timeout to try and rally her squad.
The Lady Tigers added two more points before Westwood righted the ship and again pulled away. Natali Muniz iced the game with a kill for the 25-16 victory.
Trinity used that momentum, however, to open Game 2 and shot out to a 6-2 lead. But, Westwood was able to regroup and slowly pulled back in the game, tying things at 9-9 on a Muniz kill, a Lacey Wooden ace and a bad serve-return from Trinity.
From there, Westwood never looked back, as Heather Wooden extended the lead to 13-11 with two aces, and Marialle Boles widened the gap to 16-11 with two kills.
Westwood struggled a bit in Game 3, allowing Trinity to cut what was a 8-3 lead to 9-9 before putting the hammer down.
On a run that included two kills from Courtney Stanhope, Westwood pulled to a 15-9 advantage, and Lacey Wooden made it 18-10 on two-straight aces.
Markeisha Durham added two kills to extend things to 21-11 in Westwood’s favor, and the Lady Panthers were on the way.
“It’s an amazing feeling, being 8-0,” Stanhope said. “We strive every week to push ourselves, we just go one team at a time.”
The win sets things up for a big match Friday in Elkhart, when the Lady Panthers (28-8, 8-0) and Lady Elks (17-17, 7-1) — who beat Groveton Tuesday, 3-1 — face-off.
A win for Westwood clinches the 19-2A title for the Lady Panthers, while a win for Elkhart means the district race won’t be decided until the final week.
Both teams have already clinched playoff spots.
“We’re very serious about (the Elkhart) game. We were already talking about it after this game,” Evans said. “They know the seriousness of it and we’ve talked about coming out, practicing and getting ready for that and I think they’re ready.”
Boles led the Lady Panthers with 10 kills, while Durham continued her strong run of form with eight. Muniz had seven and Stanhope five for Westwood.
“Whenever I go up to hit, I just want to have a kill and get a point,” Durham said. “I want everyone on the team to be excited.”
Added Evans, “I feel like each night, somebody steps up and they did a great job tonight.”
Heather Wooden had team-highs in both assists (17) and aces (5), while Lacey Wooden had three aces of her own. Neeli Hardison added seven assists.
The varsity match Friday in Elkhart begins at 4 p.m.
ELKHART 3, Groveton 1
The Elkhart volleyball team kept its hopes for a district title alive Tuesday — and clinched a playoff spot in the process — with a 3-1 (25-22, 20-25, 25-11, 25-21) win over Groveton.
Robin Grant led the Elkhart attack with 15 kills and two blocks, while Courtney Cheatham had 11 kills, five blocks and two aces.
Paige Huff finished with 31 assists in the victory, and Ryan Grimsley had three kills.
Elkhart (17-17, 7-1) hosts Westwood Friday.
Coaches or team representatives are encouraged to call in scores and stats to 903-729-0281 ext. 242 by 9 p.m. after games, or to email firstname.lastname@example.org
Sports editor Justin Rains can be reached via email at email@example.com