WESTBROOK - Walking off the court following a five-set victory over Tracy-Milroy-Balaton to open the volleyball season, Westbrook-Walnut Grove head coach Cathy Baumann just had to let out a sigh.
"I just told the girls, 'This is a heck of a way to start a season,'" Baumann said.
The Chargers went from dizzying highs, holding a 2-0 lead, to stomach-churning lows when the Panthers tied the match up at 2. But thanks to a solid block and double-digit kills by veteran front-row players Paige Erickson, Dayna Comnick and Hailey Osland, WWG survived a thriller with TMB, 25-22, 25-21, 15-25, 23-25, 15-10.
Photo by Joe Brown
Westbrook-Walnut Grove’s Kelsi Wahl (10) and Dayna Comnick (3) react after the Chargers scored match point in the fifth set, clinching a victory over Tracy-Milroy-Balaton Friday in Westbrook.
"It was so exciting, oh my gosh," said Erickson, who finished with 15 kills and 1 1/2 blocks. "We definitely had to fight hard the whole time."
Early on, it looked like the Chargers would end the night early, jumping out to a 17-11 lead in the first set. But the Panthers scraped their way back into the set, tying it up at 20 before TMB errors gave the first set to WWG.
In the second set, both teams fought through five ties and three lead changes before Erickson ended a 13-all tie with a kill, putting the Chargers up for good to take a 2-0 lead.
For two sets, it seemed like the Chargers could do no wrong.
"It made me think that we're going to really accomplish something this season," Erickson said of the 2-0 lead. "It was a lot of fun."
With their backs against the wall, the most unlikely of circumstances seemed to spark the Panthers. When senior middle hitter Jenna Stoneberg went down with a twisted ankle, her younger sister, Sara, stepped in for TMB. With Sara Stoneberg at the service line, the Panthers scored six consecutive points to hold a 14-9 lead. During that stretch, Sara Stoneberg went 4-for-4 serving with three aces as TMB dominated the third set.
"She got a nice spark for us," Panthers head coach Katie Gervais said of Sara Stoneberg. "After that, they started playing together better. Those girls are competitive enough that it was nice to see them come back and show a lot of composure for our group."
WWG started the fourth set with a 4-0 advantage before TMB clawed back and tied the set at 11. The two teams tied the set at 23 before a tip-in by Sammie Gervais and a kill by Kelli Soupir gave the Panthers the set and tied the match at 2.
"They had a lot of momentum," Erickson said. "They got a lot more over the net and placed it smartly."
TMB tallied the first two points in the final set before WWG put together five straight points, capped off by a kill by Kelsi Wahl to make it 5-2. The Panthers never got closer than two points for the rest of the fifth set.
"We let ourselves get the best of us (in the third and fourth sets)," Baumann said. "What I'm proud of them the most about is they came back and got it done."
Comnick had 13 kills and 13 digs for the Chargers, and Osland dropped 12 kills in the victory. Jenna Stoneberg and Sammie Gervais led the Panthers with 10 kills each, while Kassidy Przymus had a game-high 18 digs.
Starting 1-0, WWG stays at home for its next game, hosting Lincoln HI on Tuesday. TMB (0-1) plays its first Camden Conference game of the year on Tuesday, traveling to Cottonwood to play Lakeview.
TMB22 21 25 25 10
WWG25 25 15 23 15
TMB INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
Serving (good-att-aces): Kelli Soupir 16-16-3, Sara Stoneberg 4-4-3, Kassidy Przymus 8-11-2.
Kills: Sammie Gervais 10, Jenna Stoneberg 10, Morgan Hoffbeck 9.
Digs: Przymus 18, Anna Peterson 15.
Set Assists: Cassie Hook 40.
Ace Blocks: J. Stoneberg 1, Hoffbeck 1.
WWG INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
Ace Serves: Kelsi Wahl 3, Madison Takle 1, Dayna Comnick 1.
Kills: Paige Erickson 15, Comnick 13, Hailey Osland 12, Kelsi Wahl 9.
Digs: Abby Herding 13, Comnick 13, Takle 12.
Set Assists: Herding 44.
Ace Blocks: Osland 2 1/2, Erickson 1 1/2, Comnick 1.