By Ryan Menzie
Signal Sports Writer
The matchup of Foothill League champs for the past four seasons did not disappoint as they went all the way until the very end, with the West Ranch Wildcats emerging victorious on Thursday at Hart High School. The battle against the Hart Indians went five sets in favor of the Wildcats (23-25, 25-20, 21-25, 26-16, 15-12) but the rivalry is set to continue as the season moves on.
“For us, we had our ups and downs and the thing is when we get down, we stay there quite some time,” said Indians head coach Mary Irilian. “However, on the flip side, when we get on runs everyone is mentally tough and we’re pushing through. Last year they beat us in their home place and we beat them in their place. Hopefully we understand our faults and we can’t go into their gym suffering from what we did in here tonight.”
Sophomore Madison Maxwell led the Indians with 20 kills on the night, with senior outside hitter Kylie Tengberg right behind with 12 kills of her own. Senior middle hitter Audrey Welch finished the night with six kills and seven blocks while sophomore setter Morgan Dumlao led all players on the court with 40 assists.
Despite the efforts, including a huge comeback in the second set, being down 24-11 before dropping the set 25-20 and being up 2-1 in the first three sets, the Wildcats’ relentless offense proved up to the task to hold onto the win.
“Every time we play Hart, it’s going to be a battle,” said Wildcats head coach Jamey Ker. “We’re always going to have to scratch and claw to win the matchup. Fortunately, it went our way and our girls were really mentally tough. We watched a lot of film and got the sense of one-on-one matchups and how specific players play. I’m happy we got this win.”
Sophomore opposite hitter Kennedy Osunsanmi led all players with 32 kills at a 45% kill rate.
“I worked on my mental toughness this week and I didn’t want to freak out this game since that was an issue last time against them,” said Osunsanmi. “I kept reassuring myself that no matter how I did, everything would be alright. We just got to keep studying what happened tonight and know despite the ups and downs we were able to persevere in the end.”
Sophomore setter McKenna Edwards led the team with 15 assists. Edwards always looks forward to the matchups against the Indians knowing it’s a hard matchup, but had the team mentality of not giving up any wins against them this season.
“We need to come out with more energy and not allow them to take our energy away,” said Edwards. “This game was fun and I’m happy that we won, but I will let it go during practice next week. We have to keep the same effort coming into these games until the next time we face them.”