West Ranch High’s senior class was finally able to taste victory against Hart High on Thursday night.
“This was a really big accomplishment,” said Lauren Smith, a senior outside hitter. “Out of all the years I’ve been at West Ranch this is the first time we came out with a win against them. After beating Valencia (on Tuesday), this was the icing on the cake.”
The Wildcats defeated the Indians at Hart in a grueling four-game match, 25-19, 23-25, 25-18, 25-19.
Hart struggled in the first game, making mistakes that boosted West Ranch to an early lead. The Indians retaliated in the second game, pressuring the Cats by keeping the score within a point. It was that pressure that helped the Indians win the game.
But West Ranch wasn’t finished.
“I have a really strong group of girls, (who have) a lot of grit and are able to sustain in tough matches,” said Wildcats coach Brandon Pank. “We have had a hard time in the past with creating separation with a team. Within two or three points of them and it creates a lot of pressure and a lot of stress and it’s tougher to compete.”
But from the third game on, Hart was unable to contain an unpredictable West Ranch offense.
“I put a lot of positive pressure on my players to be as tactically aware as I am and it’s one of the reasons why we came out strong,” Pank said. “They were serving the right person at the right time and finding weaknesses when I wasn’t pumping that information to them.”
Some of that offense came from Tasha Skabelund (11 kills, four aces, two blocks), Kaitlin Schultz (four kills, three blocks) and Katie Jacobs (two kills, two aces). The three have been playing club volleyball together for about five years, and it shows on the court.
“We really have a strong connection,” Jacobs said. “When we want to change something on the offense or we want to run a different route, we can communicate that really well.”
Hart’s strongest presence throughout the match was Madi Fay, who led the team with 11 kills and 22 assists.
Fay was key in sustaining rallies, something that Hart was able to do throughout the night regardless of the score.
“Not only is she good, but she is that make-or-break athlete that will go chase down a ball and make a bad ball better to sustain,” Pank said of Fay.
Hart plays Saugus on Tuesday. West Ranch plays at Canyon.
“This was a big game for us because we wanted to show people that we can be a front-runner and we have a chance to win the title this year,” Jacobs said.
Allison Jacobs had 10 kills for West Ranch. Her teammate Lauren Smith had seven.
Golden Valley 3, Canyon 0
The Grizzlies won by scores of 25-19, 25-18, 25-19.