By Garth Shanklin
The Williamsburg Lady Wildcats volleyball team did something on Oct. 22 that it had not done since the first day of the regular season: lost a set.
For the first time since dropping the second set against Roger Bacon on Aug. 20 in the team’s first (and only) loss so far this season, Williamsburg found themselves trailing in a match after the first set against Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy.
The Lady Wildcats jumped ahead 3-0 in the first set in front of a rowdy crowd at Mariemont High School. CHCA rallied to tie the set at eight, and the teams continued their back-and-forth battle until late in the set, when CHCA turned a 16-15 lead into a 22-15 advantage. After a Williamsburg timeout, the Lady Wildcats went on a bit of a run themselves, cutting the lead to 24-22. The Lady Eagles scored their 25th point to win the set 25-22.
Williamsburg head coach Ed Stewart said the Lady Wildcats made too many mistakes, which helped CHCA pull out the first-set win.
“We gave them a lot of points,” Stewart said. “We missed three serves. We don’t miss three serves in a match, much less three serves in a set. It’s nerves, this is a pretty big deal. You get to go to Dayton and good things can come of it. It was a bit of a nerve problem, to be honest.”
Stewart calmed the team down after the first set.
“I just told them that that wasn’t them,” Stewart said. “They knew that wasn’t them. We don’t play like that. If you just do what we’ve been doing, don’t try to be too good and just do what you can do, then we’ll be alright. That’s what they did. They calmed down and did the things that we could do. They started passing better and missed one serve the last three games. I’m happy with them.”
Any thoughts of a CHCA sweep were quickly squashed in the second set. The Lady Wildcats fell behind 2-0, but went on a 12-2 run to take a 12-4 lead. They expanded that margin to as much as 11 points before winning the set 25-15.
The third set was another battle. The teams found themselves tied at five and 11 at various points throughout the set. Williamsburg held a slim 16-15 lead late before stretching it to a 20-18 margin after a quick 3-0 run by CHCA. The Lady Wildcats scored the final five points of the set to win it 25-18 and take a 2-1 lead in the match.
The fourth and final set was a toss-up. The teams found themselves tied 19 separate times in the set and the Lady Wildcats faced match point three separate times, finally converting the third chance to win the set 28-26 and the match 3-1.
Stewart said after the game that while the team’s passing wasn’t as sharp as it normally is, the team’s ability to pull out the victory regardless speaks volumes.
“It feels great,” Stewart said. “The kids never gave up. We didn’t pass very well the first game, we didn’t pass very well the fourth game, but we were able to overcome it because we’ve got good hitters and I’ve got kids that don’t quit. If you have kids that don’t quit, good things can happen. We made some crazy plays that turned out to be pretty good.”
Stewart said the team’s passing needs to improve before the district match, which will see the team face Anna High School at Clayton Northmont on Saturday, Oct. 29 at 3 p.m. Anna won the district title last season, advancing to the regional semis before falling to eventual regional champion Miami East.
“It’s going to be a tough road up there in the district, but we’re looking forward to that challenge too,” Stewart said. “If you have hitters like I’ve got, if we can pass I think we can play with anybody. We have to pass better.”
One thing the Lady Wildcats will have going for them regardless of where the games are played is fan support, which Stewart summed up in one word.
“Unbelievable,” Stewart said. “We’re rocking the gym and it made a difference. Our crowd gets going and the other team starts looking at them because they’re making so much noise. We got tremendous community support. It’s not shocking, because I’ve been at Williamsburg a long time and I’ve seen it. They come out and support their teams win, lose or draw and fortunately we won.”