By JUSTIN RAINS
The Westwood volleyball team is a veteran, upper classmen-driven group.
The Elkhart volleyball team is a young team still trying to find its way.
Both of those things definitely showed Tuesday, as Westwood swept the Lady Elks, 3-0 (25-13, 25-20, 25-17), overcoming deficits in all three games in front of a raucous, playoff-type crowd at Westwood High School.
With the victory, the Lady Panthers took control of District 19-2A at 4-0. Both they and Elkhart entered the game at 3-0 in district play.
“I think this is huge. We talk about our home games and how important they are...those are the games when we’re on our home territory,” WHS coach Janae Evans said. “I felt like they’ve done a great job at home this year and it was a huge game for us.
“They did what I asked them to do. They played great.”
Westwood set the tone early, despite falling behind 8-6 to the Lady Elks in Game 1.
The match was tied at 6-6, but kills from both Robin Grant and Ryan Grimsley extended Elkhart’s lead.
The Lady Panthers closed the game on a huge, 19-5 run, led by the three kills of Natali Muniz. A Muniz kill made the game 20-12 late, while a kill from Marialle Boles made it 23-12 before Westwood quickly put it away.
“You can tell after one, two, three points (scored by Westwood) that we just have that defeated look on our face,” EHS coach Katie Lankford said. “That’s something that we have struggled with and it’s something we’re still working on.”
Elkhart seemed unfazed by dropping Game 1, jumping out to an early 8-3 lead in Game 2. But, like in Game 1, that lead didn’t last long.
Boles brought Westwood to within one at 8-7 on two aces, and the match was tied not much later at 11-11 when Elkhart was called for a lift.
Elkhart then went on a 3-1 run with Grant supplying two kills, before what turned out to be a momentum-killing play for Elkhart.
With the Lady Elks leading 14-12 after a Grant kill, the Lady Elks seemed primed to extend the lead when a hard kill was sent sky-high by Westwood.
The ball bounced around a lifted-up basketball goal — in play in the WHS gym — before coming down in play.
Westwood was able to extend the play, eventually winning the point. From there, the Lady Panthers closed on a 13-6 run.
“We just couldn’t give up,” ------- junior outside hitter Mi’Kayla Benson said. “We just had to push hard and play hard. We just had to push ourselves.”
The Lady Panthers took the lead behind the serves of Lacey and Heather Wooden, who extended it to a 19-15 advantage for Westwood, which never looked back.
Elkhart’s lead didn’t come as early in Game 3, but it still came. The Lady Elks led 13-11 on an ace from Paige Huff, but again couldn’t hold on.
A Heather Wooden-aced tied things up at 14, and an Elkhart error and Markeisha Durham ace gave Westwood a 16-14 lead.
The Lady Panthers’ lead was extended to 19-15 on an Elkhart error, and Muniz made it 20-15 on a kill of her own.
Mi’Kayla Benson sandwiched two kills of her own around a kill for Elkhart from Grant to make it 22-17, and Elkhart errors ended the game, and the match.
With the sweep, Westwood has yet to drop a game in district play yet this season.
“It’s great to just come out here and play Westwood volleyball, because that’s what we’ve had planned all season,” Heather Wooden said. “What we did in preseason, our whole record, it doesn’t matter right now. We’re 4-0, we haven’t lost a set and we’re playing Westwood volleyball.”
Benson led Westwood with eight kills on the night, with five coming in Game 2. Muniz finished with seven kills, while both Courtney Stanhope and Boles had five.
When asked how it felt to be 4-0 and leading the district, Benson called it “unbelievable,” and “awesome.”
Heather Wooden had a match-high 14 assists, while Neeli Hardison had 11. Both Heather Wooden and Boles finished with three aces.
Grant led all players with nine kills, while both Tiffany Rosas and Grimsley had five for Elkhart. Courtney Cheatham finished with three.
Huff had 12 assists to the lead the Lady Elks, while Megan Davis finished with seven.
“We picked up a lot of balls, we hustled, we did some really good things,” Lankford said. “We just made too many mistakes consecutively.”
Westwood (24-8, 4-0) looks to stay perfect through the first round of district when they host Onalaska Friday, with matches beginning at 4 p.m.
Elkhart (13-17, 3-1) will try and rebound Friday when they welcome in Crockett. Matches are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m.
CAYUGA 3, Wortham 0
The seventh-ranked Cayuga volleyball team kept rolling Tuesday, sweeping Wortham, 3-0 (25-17, 25-21, 25-18) to move to a perfect 8-0 in district play.
Danielle Anderson led the Cayuga attack with 13 kills, while Shawnta Knox had 12 kills and seven digs.
Cory McCulloch had a team-high 14 digs, while Maci Poland pitched in eight. Molly Griffey led the Ladycats with 32 assists.
Cayuga travels to Hubbard Saturday, with matches set to begin at 10 a.m.
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 email@example.com