It looked, for all intents and purposes, like Westwood was done.
The Lady Panther volleyball team was trailing Palestine, 21-17, in the fourth game and had just lost Game 3, 25-23, to go down 2-1 in the match.
Then, something clicked.
The Lady Panthers scored eight of Game 4’s final nine points, stealing the win from the jaws of defeat. They then used that momentum to roll in Game 5, 15-7, to capture the win at Palestine High School, 3-2 (17-25, 25-16, 23-25, 25-22, 15-7).
“It was huge,” WHS coach Janae Evans said of the Game 4 win. “I feel like my kids got some energy on their side of the court. They just got that energy that they just didn’t seem to have in the earlier games.”
In the pivotal Game 4, Palestine’s Karisma Smith slammed home a kill to give the Ladycats a 21-17 advantage, and seemingly put the match away.
But, Palestine’s next serve went out, giving the ball back to Westwood. On the next play, Westwood senior Marialle Boles picked up a big block, and despite fielding the ball, Palestine couldn’t get it over the net.
“Our biggest problem was our attitude,” PHS coach Lisa Hampton said. “We weren’t picking each other up, we were pulling each other down. We were making mistakes we don’t generally make.”
Mi’Kayla Benson then tallied a kill to move Westwood to within one at 21-20, and the game was tied up when a Palestine ball went wide.
Boles then notched a kill to give Westwood its first lead of the entire game, only to see Palestine tie the game again on a kill by Dana Whitehead.
But, Palestine allowed a ball to fall in on the next point, and an ace from Benson and a kill from Natali Muniz iced the game for the Lady Panthers.
“It was kind of nerve-racking, but then we just had to calm down and we got everything together,” Benson said of the atmosphere in the Westwood huddle during the Game 4 comeback.
From there, it was all Westwood.
The Lady Panthers jumped out to a 12-1 lead in Game 5 and held on from there. The game was officially put to bed on a kill from Benson, an all but fitting end to the contest.
The Westwood junior finished with a match-high 25 kills on the night, along with two aces. She called the night “amazing.”
“I was just in the game and excited because we wanted to win, work hard and work together,” Benson said.
Added Evans, “She definitely did her part. We talked about transition and she was definitely transitioning and powering through the ball.”
For Palestine, the loss was a disappointing one, especially after seemingly having it wrapped up.
The Ladycats seemed to have sealed the game in Game 3, when they took a 21-18 lead and then held off a ferocious Westwood comeback to go up in the match, 2-1.
That loss for Westwood was made even worse because Palestine’s final two points came courtesy of Westwood serves that didn’t find the court.
But, the Lady Panthers prevailed, much to the delight of Evans.
“This is what we need,” she said. “We need games like this to push us to have to make those plays and have to do those things together, as a team.”
Along with Benson’s huge night, Westwood got large contributions from almost all of its players.
Muniz finished with seven kills and two aces, while both Boles and Courtney Stanhope had four kills, and Heather Wooden and Trista Fields had three.
Wooden also had a match-high 21 assists to go with two aces, while Neeli Hardison added nine assists.
The loss spoiled a big night from both Whitehead and Smith for Palestine, who tallied 17 and 14 kills, respectively.
Alana Whitehead pitched in seven assists and three aces, while Arion Sandefer had five kills. GiGi Spreen had five assists for the Ladycats.
Hampton said that fatigue may have played a factor in her team fading down the stretch.
The Ladycats played nine games over the weekend in the Grapeland tournament, and swept Frankston, 3-0 (25-7, 25-11, 25-18), just prior to the Westwood game.
“Our legs, I think, were dead,” Hampton said. “But, that’s what we’ve got to do now to get ready for district. Every game, we’re going to learn from.”
In that sweep of the Maidens, Dana Whitehead had nine kills, while Smith had six. Alana Whitehead had seven assists and three aces.
Palestine (10-2) will play in the Eustace tournament beginning Thursday, while Westwood (8-2) travels to Buffalo Friday, with matches beginning at 4:30 p.m.
CAYUGA 3, Normangee 0
Danielle Anderson had 17 kills and 11 digs, and the Cayuga volleyball team won its second match in as many nights, rolling over Normangee, 3-0 (25-13, 25-23, 25-15).
Shawnta Knox added eight kills and 11 aces for the Ladycats in the win, while Presley Luce had 23 assists. Meagan Poland added two blocks.
Cayuga (7-3) travels to the Overton tournament beginning Thursday.
Coaches or team representatives are encouraged to call in scores and stats to 903-729-0281 ext. 242 by 9:30 p.m. after games, or to email email@example.com