By Brad Morris
WILLIAMSPORT — Going through 14 ties and six set points has the ability to tax a volleyball team, both mentally and physically.
Except if you are the Westfall Mustangs.
“That was a battle, but we knew that we had to keep our energy up, stay motivated and play together as a team,” Westfall junior Marissa Mullins said.
Mullins helped the Mustangs secure the marathon set with a pair of kills and a block on Tuesday in a 25-22, 31-29, 25-27 and 25-19 Scioto Valley Conference win over visiting Zane Trace.
Despite scoring the first four points of the second set, the Mustangs eventually found themselves trailing the Pioneers 24-22.
Westfall successfully fought off a pair of set points to tie the match. The Mustangs then earned set points at 26, 27 and 28, but were unable to convert.
Zane Trace took another turn at set point at 29-28, but a kill by Mullins kept the Mustangs alive.
Mullins then recorded a block to put the Mustangs ahead and force the Pioneers to burn their last timeout. The junior came right back with a cram on set point to give the Mustangs the hard fought set.
“We knew Zane Trace was big at the net and that we had to cover,” Mullins said. “I knew I had to do my part at the net by slowing down their hits or blocking them.
“Then, when we transitioned into our offense, I knew I had to put my chances away.”
It was the second time in their last three conference matches that the Mustangs won a set 31-29.
“That’s only the second time we’ve been in a situation like that in a match all season with it going back-and-forth and the set going well beyond 25,” Westfall coach Jessica Sullivan said. “Every point means so much in a set like that, and I was pleased with the way our girls handled the pressure, kept working together and found a way to pull it out against a good team like Zane Trace.”
Zane Trace responded by scoring eight of the first 10 points in the third set.
The Mustangs battled back, taking their first lead at 23-22 and eventually earning a set point at 25-24, following a block courtesy of Claire Latham.
Zane Trace scored the next three points of the set, including a block by Alexis Farley and a kill courtesy of Lexi Scott to send the match into a fourth set.
“I felt like we relaxed a little after that tough second set win, and you can’t do that when a team has their back against the wall and is as good as Zane Trace,” Sullivan said. “We put together some good spurts after the slow start, but we couldn’t carry them over.”
Westfall was able to get off to a better start in the fourth set and eventually built a 12-6 lead, following a kill by Mullins.
The Mustangs led by no fewer than three points the rest of the way, and Mullins slammed down a kill on match point to close out action.
“I challenged the girls to step it up in the fourth set and play the volleyball that they are capable of playing,” Sullivan said. “I felt like that was probably our cleanest set and the girls did a nice job of keeping their feet on the gas.”
Mullins and Kristin Phillips combined for 48 kills. Latham finished the match by distributing 55 assists.
The Mustangs close the first half of conference play in second-place, a match behind undefeated Adena.
“Anytime you are in the top three of our conference you should feel pretty good about yourselves, because this conference plays a high level of volleyball and consistently sends 4-6 teams to district and multiple teams to regional,” Sullivan said. “We know that we still have work to do and can get quite a bit better in just about every area. Our girls have set some big goals and we need to do that if we want to meet those goals.”
ZT’s Hill reaches 1,000 digs
From the first time she stepped into Zane Trace High School, senior Laynee Hill knew she wanted to leave her mark.
“I knew going into my freshman year that reaching 1,000 digs was something I wanted to achieve,” she said. “I looked up to the players who had 1,000 kills, a 1,000 digs or a 1,000 assists during their high school careers.
“I wanted to be them and they were my role models. They were the type of players that drove me to be the best that I could be.”
Hill officially joined that company on Tuesday when she reached 1,000 digs during the third set of a Scioto Valley Conference match against host Westfall.
“Coach (Cindy) Davis has coached me for five years, and she’s taught me everything I know and helped make me into the aggressive player that I am,” Hill said. “The other part of it goes back to getting into the gym early and working. I’ve put the work in since I started playing volleyball back in the third grade.”
The match was stopped to present Hill the ball and allow the senior to give a hug to her parents, George and Kelly Hill, while she received a nice hand from the crowd.
Hill discussed the attitude she plays with on defense and going against the number of talented hitters that the conference offers.
“You’re going to face good hitters every time you play in this conference and you have to play with a mentality that every ball is yours and every ball is playable, no matter the hitter you are facing,” she said. “That’s how I play. I want every single ball.”
Hill finished the match with 12 digs.
Both teams open the second round of conference play on Thursday, as the Mustangs (7-2, 6-1) entertain Southeastern (7-5, 2-5) and the Pioneers (6-4, 4-3) host Unioto (7-7, 3-4).
Kills – Marissa Mullins, 25; Kristin Phillips, 23; Hailey Young, seven; Ashley Hegarty, six; Claire Latham, three
Assists – Claire Latham, 55
Aces – Claire Latham, two
Solo Blocks – Marissa Mullins, four
Digs – Marissa Mullins, 18; Claire Latham, 11; Kristin Phillips, 10; Ashley Hegarty, 10; Lauren Daniels, nine; Kayla Fleischmann, nine; Grace Wolfe, six
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