By Brad Morris
WILLIAMSPORT — Calling the third set of a Scioto Valley Conference match wild on Tuesday would be a dramatic understatement.
Westfall and Huntington were tied 16 times in the set and combined to successfully fight off nine set points.
“That set was back-and-forth and really intense,” Westfall coach Jessica Sullivan said. “Our girls were playing hard and Huntington was really scrappy and digging the ball up well.”
That’s when Kristin Phillips said enough was enough.
The Westfall senior middle hitter fought off a Huntington set point with a kill and, following an errant attack by the Huntsmen, finally ended the marathon set with a powerful slam.
“We stayed focused, kept our energy up and we really, really wanted that set,” Phillips said. “That’s the type of attitude you have to play with if you want to win a set like that.
“It felt good to finally end that for our team by putting a couple of balls away and being aggressive. There is nothing better than to smash a kill, especially in a key situation.”
The win gave the Mustangs the lead in a key conference match and allowed them to put away the visiting Huntsmen 20-25, 25-13, 31-29 and 25-18.
Westfall (6-1, 5-0) handed Huntington (7-2, 4-1) its first loss inside the conference and are tied with archrival Adena (8-0, 5-0) for first.
Huntington took its largest lead of the third set at 14-11, following a kill by Megan Steele that forced a Westfall timeout.
The Mustangs responded, sparked by a pair of kills and a block courtesy of Marissa Mullins, to score nine of the next 10 points and claim a 20-15 advantage.
A kill off the Huntington block by Phillips brought up set point at 24-20, but the Huntsmen rose to the occasion and ran off the next four points to tie the set.
After the Mustangs failed to convert another set point, the Huntsmen had their turn at set point at 27, 28 and 29, only to be turned back each time by the Mustangs before Phillips finally ended the marathon set with her aforementioned key kills.
The Mustangs took that momentum into the fourth set, using back-to-back aces by Phillips to take an 8-3 lead.
Huntington closed its deficit to a point on three occasions, the last at 15-14. A block and kill from Ashley Hegarty helped the Mustangs take a 19-14 lead. They eventually closed out the match on a block by Phillips to retain a spotless ledger inside the conference.
Phillips, a 6-1 hitter who has committed to the University of Tennessee at Martin, and Mullins, a six-foot junior, combined for an impressive stat line of 37 kills, four aces, seven solo blocks and 32 digs.
“It’s so nice to be able and have Kristin and Marissa play opposite of each other,” Sullivan said. “Marissa has grown every season as a player and she’s taken another jump this season. She’s playing with a lot of confidence and is excelling as an all-around player for us, also being solid in the back row.
“Kristin is Kristin. She does her thing and she’s amazing.”
It was the sixth-straight win for the Mustangs after they opened the season last month with a three-set loss at the hands of unbeaten Circleville.
“It seems like we’re always nervous for that first match and we made some mistakes and saw that we had some things we really needed to work on,” Phillips said. “Like everyone else, we didn’t get to play at all during the summer due to COVID-19, so we had to rush around and get things together quickly.
“Our team has such a good bond, that’s helped us overcome that and we’ve improved quite a bit since that loss to Circleville.”
Sullivan shares Phillips’ sentiment, but would like to see the Mustangs start quicker than they have in most of their matches, which included dropping the opening set against Huntington.
“We’re starting to click, but we are still working to find that perfect lineup,” she said. “The girls are getting used to playing beside each other and picking things up.
“One thing we’re still working on is not being as nervous or tentative when we start a match. Huntington did some nice things in that first set, so I don’t want to take anything away from them, but it takes us awhile to get it in gear and we need to play our game from start-to-finish in a match.”
The Mustangs continue conference play on Thursday at Adena, with the winner taking sole possession of first in the conference.
“This was a big win for us, but we still have a long way to go,” Phillips said. “The SVC is going to be a battle again this season, so we have to take it one match at a time and keep getting better as a team.”
Kills – Marissa Mullins, 20; Kristin Phillips, 17; Ashley Hegarty, 6; Hailey Young, 5; Lauren Daniels, 3.
Aces – Marissa Mullins, 2; Kristin Phillips, 2; Claire Latham, 2
Assists – Claire Latham, 40
Solo Blocks – Kristin Phillips, 4; Marissa Mullins, 3
Digs – Marissa Mullins, 19; Kayla Fleischmann, 15; Kristin Phillips, 13; Claire Latham, 13; Grace Wolfe, 7; Lauren Daniels, 6; Ashley Hegarty, 5
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