Before the season began, Prairie Heights volleyball coach Tina Sailor identified Westview as one of the stronger teams her Lady Panthers would have to deal with if they were to challenge for an NECC championship.
Tuesday night in Brushy Prairie, the visiting Lady Warriors validated Sailor’s prognostication – almost to the dismay of her and the Prairie Heights squad.
Featuring the 1-2 hitting and blocking punch of Kelsey Carmack and Breann Bushong, Westview stunned the hosts by taking the first game, 29-27. The Lady Warriors then built substantial leads in both the second and third games, spurring their hopes of pulling off a huge, early-season upset.
But in the end, the experience and confidence of Prairie Heights swayed the contest in its favor. Utilizing the well-placed tips and spikes of Tressa Terry, and the precise serving of both Riley Shultz and Shawna Carbone, the Lady Panthers fended off their county neighbors to win the final three sets, 25-23, 25-21, 25-14.
“That is a phenomenal team with tough hitters and quickness on defense,” said Sailor of Westview. “But our girls found a way and got a very important conference win.”
Trailing by as many as six points (14-8) in the second game, the Lady Panthers rallied to knot the count at 22-all on a tip-kill by Shultz. After splitting the next two points, an ace by Shultz and a deep bump by Terry that eluded the Lady Warrior backrow earned Heights the clinching tallies.
The third game followed a similar script as the second, with Westview riding the net play of Carmack and Bushong to a 17-12 advantage. Again, the Lady Panthers chipped away until they caught the Lady Warriors at 21. Two Westview errors and kills by Terry and Kayla Feeney gave Heights the set, 25-21.
“We missed a few shots and Prairie Heights did a nice job of breaking us down mentally and finding holes in our defense,” stated Westview skipper Heidi Brohm. “It’s always a struggle over here because Prairie Heights is a scrappy team and plays fierce at the net.”
Deflated by their narrow losses in the second and third games, the Lady Warriors came out flat in the fourth and the hosts took full advantage, jumping out to a 13-4 lead. Terry registered five of her team-high 20 kills during the run.
“Tressa is such a smart player and great leader,” said Sailor. “She knows where to put the ball and doesn’t always rely on power in making her shots.”
Shultz and Carbone wound up with 15 and 14 service points, respectively for the 3-0 Lady Panthers. Shultz also led the winners in assists with 25 and chipped in nine kills, while Carbone topped the dig chart with 22 and added seven spike winners.
For Westview, which fell to 2-2 on the campaign, Carmack totaled 15 kills, Bushong 14 and Grace Hales seven. Carrie Chupp chalked up 31 assists, Carmack and Candice Chupp each produced 20 digs, and Julia Wright had three blocks.