West Franklin volleyball battles way to third in tourney

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald

The West Franklin volleyball team played through many obstacles to finish third in the Wellsville Tournament.

Two young Falcons stepped into varsity action and gave the team a lift in the tournament. Freshman Haydan Walters made her varsity debut and Emily Matthias had just one varsity match before the tournament.

“Haydan has just been playing JV but after one of my varsity starters was unable to attend the tournament this weekend I needed to find a right side hitter to replace that spot,” West Franklin coach Melissa Harms said. “I chose Haydan because I knew she would come in and just play hard. I thought she'll at least put up a good block on that right side because she can jump and reads the ball well. I also knew she could get a few swings here and there that would help us have an option to go to on the right side, but man I was not expecting the type of power and play she gave us on Saturday.

“I was very impressed with her ‘go big’ mentality. It didn't matter that she was ‘just a freshman’ or ‘hadn't played varsity yet.’ She gave it her all and she did amazing. She actually finished the day with our best hitting efficiency for the day (.214) and finished with 16 kills. She brings that extra spark onto the court and that "I'm just going to play" attitude that we lack at times. She definitely earned herself a permanent spot on varsity after this weekend.’

Matthias also gave the Falcons a shot in the arm with her performance.

 “She totally stepped up when we needed her,” Harms said. “She has only gone into one varsity game prior to this weekend, but I would say this was more of a debut for her. She was second on the team for serve receive at a 2.0. We were struggling with our passing in the very first match of the day against SFT and I put her back there and kept her in the rotation all day. She did a great job stepping up and doing exactly what we needed her to do.”

Senior Riley Zentz continued her solid play on the back row and earned all-tournament honors. She had nine aces, a 2.1 serve-receive, six assists, and 54 digs.

“I told her that if there is a ball near her, I want her to take it,” Harms said. She's in that special jersey for a reason. I feel like she is really starting to take on that roll and being much more aggressive for us which is extremely helpful as we all know that without a pass first, nothing else can happen.”

West Franklin opened the tourney with a three-set win over Santa Fe Trail.  It was a case of a lot of ups and downs. The team came out with a lot of energy and dominate the first set. The second set saw the energy level dip.

“We started hitting it directly to their libero, serving it directly to their libero, and they took that to their advantage,” Harms said. “I told the girls it didn't matter how hard they hit it, but if they hit it directly at a person, that's too easy, anyone can dig it up. Once we started to serve tough and make them move, the third game went much better.”

Mental mistakes hurt the Falcons in their only pool loss to Wellsville.

“We just kind of got into our own heads and let one mistake roll into the other and we couldn't quite shake that off,” Harms said. “We just weren't at the top of our game that match and it really hurt us in the end.”

The Falcons got another shot at the Eagles and won the consolation match.

“We knew exactly what we needed to do to win that one this time around. Serve aggressively, hitters go big, and play together as a team-for each other. I told them that we can't worry about things we can't control, so take care of each other and put each other first before ourselves. We focused on one point at a time instead of trying to think of the whole match. I think breaking it down into smaller mini games helps us to regroup and challenge ourselves and also be more competitive.“

Jenna Walters: 27 kills, 6 aces, 1.9 serve receive, 3 assists, 31 digs and 3 blocks

Allison Swank: 21 kills, 10 blocks, 1 assist

Katie Ecord: 20 kills, 2 aces, 3 blocks, 1 dig

Haydan Walters: 16 kills, .214 hitting efficiency, 3 blocks, 5 digs

Nellie LaFountain 16 kills, 1 ace, 17 digs, 1 block

Baylee Dillard: 8 kills, 10 aces, 81 assists, 31 digs, 1 block

Chloe Ecord: 2 aces, 1.9 serve receive, 27 digs

Emily Matthias: 2.0 serve receive, 8 digs

Jaci Houk: 2 aces. 4 assists, 6 digs