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Victoria West volleyball holds on for win over Calallen

By BY JOHN HORNBERG - JHORNBERG@VICAD.COM
Sept. 6, 2011 at 4:06 a.m.
Updated Sept. 7, 2011 at 4:07 a.m.

Victoria West middle blocker Rachel Hamon reaches to bump the ball during the second game of the team's match against Calallen Tuesday evening at Victoria West High School. ANGELI WRIGHT/AWRIGHT@VICAD.COM

Victoria West 3, Calallen 2

18-25, 15-9

Of all the emotions that could have been setting in for Victoria West as they huddled before a decisive fifth game against Calallen, panic was not one of them.

Urgency maybe, but certainly not panic.

"We were just saying that we have to do it," said junior middle blocker Rachel Hamon. "It's our first game at home and we really have to beat this team. That's what we kept telling ourselves."

A little over a year ago, Victoria West opened at home by winning the first two games against El Campo before dropping the final three to open the season, at the time a youthful team still learning the ropes, each other and its coach.

The Warriors home opener for this year looked similar to last year, except with a rather positive twist. West cruised through the first two games against Calallen before running into problems, struggling defensively in the next two before rallying in the fifth game to win, 25-18, 25-16, 22-25, 18-25, 15-9 at home on Tuesday night.

Hamon isn't really sure what happened in the third and fourth games, but chalks it up to fatigue.

"I really don't know," she said. "We really lost our energy, maybe we got a little tired. But we knew we had to pick it up in the last game."

But when the Warriors needed to step up the most, they did.

"We didn't want it to slip through our fingers," said senior middle blocker Brooke Smith. "We wanted it for us and for our home town."

Smith led the team with 15 kills, while Kelsea Kalich and Jordan Fedorchak added 13 kills each, and Kelly Fowler added eight more. Blair Butschek also contributed 48 assists. Sara Hermes led the Warriors with 15 digs.

Where Calallen caught West was on defense. The Wildcats got their hands on most everything that crossed the net, and were able to turn the tables off of blocks during the third and fourth games.

Often, when a Warrior hitter went up for a kill, if the ball was blocked there was no backup, something both Smith and Hamon noted as s a problem.

"It seems like once we mess up, we kind of struggled for a second," Smith said. "But once we got it back, we just killed it."

Warriors coach Sandy Longoria noted that the Warriors struggled with handling outside hitter Katie Baker, and that libero Kiersten Dowty was taking away a lot of West's shots.

"They found a way for their big hitter to connect," Longoria said. "She was doing a fair share of hurting on us during those rotations. And their libero was just awesome at taking our shots down the line away.

"They're a good defensive team. There aren't many holes in their back row, especially."

Baker was beginning to frustrate the players on the court.

"I was getting pretty upset that I couldn't get (Baker), but once we got her, we got her," Smith said. "She just kept on hitting and it was hard to block her."

And there has been a lot of learning this season as well - of what it will take to be at the next level of play, particularly from the Pearland volleyball tournament two weeks ago.

Many of the teams they saw, Longoria said, were among the top competition in the state.

"We learned how to compete with those teams," she said. "We didn't get beat hard by them, we hung around with them. ... That was our first time there, and I think we understanding of what it takes to get to that level."

Back in the huddle Tuesday night, Longoria emphasized to the Warriors about closing out matches against opponents.

"You don't win the first two and lose the last three," she said. "We were just trying to refocus our back row, get our passing more to target so we could utilize our hitters. We had to get better balls so our setter could put out there for us to connect."

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