The Lady Wildcats had won nine matches in a row. They were also playing in front of a vocal home crowd.
But most importantly, they had a chance to avenge their only loss of the season against Area 13 rival West End of Walnut Grove. Sand Rock fell at West End on Sept. 6.
The Lady Patriots proved their first meeting with Sand Rock was no fluke. They swept the Lady Wildcats 25-18, 25-12, 25-19 to improve to 12-12 on the season (3-0 Area 13 play). Sand Rock dropped to 18-2 (2-2 Area 13).
“They served us off the floor,” Sand Rock coach Lisa Bates said. “We shanked the first couple of balls and just would not get over it. We never could find our rhythm to play us because we could not pass the ball tonight. I’m very disappointed in our effort, our passing and our ability to get over things. We did not play us tonight at all.”
For second-year West End coach Audra Noojin, Monday’s match was what she had been looking for from her young team. The Lady Patriots only have two seniors in Elissa Self and Haley Lightsey. Most of the rest of West End’s roster played at the junior varsity level last season.
“They’re a great team, but they don’t believe they’re a great team. That’s been my struggle with them,” said Noojin, who noted she tries to make the Lady Patriots mad during practice each day so they can work through it.
“They’re great athletes. It’s just the mentality they can come in and beat any team. Tonight, it showed they knew they were a great team. I’m just proud of them. They played awesome tonight.”
West End jumped out to the early lead in each of the three games Monday and kept the pressure on Sand Rock. They went up 5-0 in game one, 7-1 in game two and 6-1 in game three.
“We never got on any rolls,” Bates said. “We’d score here and there, but we never got on rolls like they did. They’d get on four or five-point runs where we couldn’t pass the ball. We were serving them too easily. We were not hitting our spots where we were supposed to be serving them. We were just lacking in a lot of areas tonight.
“They were playing a lot more aggressively than we were. We were playing too safe. We didn’t look like we were the ones who wanted to be aggressive because we couldn’t get the ball up to get it set.”
Amber Ashley led the Lady Wildcats with 13 kills. Madison Smith added seven kills and 11 digs. Kelsey Hayes had six kills, and Ashley Norris finished with 25 assists.
Morgan Cleveland led the Lady Patriots with 20 digs, nine kills and four aces. Courtney Oliver came away with nine kills, five blocks and an ace. Brittany Self posted six kills, five blocks and an ace. Elissa Self had seven digs, four kills and four aces.
Kaitlyn Waldrop managed 33 assists and an ace. Lightsey had five kills and three digs. Taylor Nash and Dannah Browning finished with seven and six digs respectively.
“A lot of credit goes to them,” Bates said. “They’re a good team, and you can’t play mediocre against good teams or you get beat. It’s just disappointing when you know what your girls can do, then they don’t do it. I think we’re evenly matched, but they just wanted it more tonight.”