Varsity volleyball defeats Jefferson West and Piper in tri-match

Senior middle hitter Jackie Kennard goes up to block a hit at the Spikefest tournament on Oct. 8.

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Senior middle hitter Jackie Kennard goes up to block a hit at the Spikefest tournament on Oct. 8.

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The De Soto High School varsity volleyball team improved its record to 26-8 with wins against Jefferson West High School and Piper High School in a tri-match on Oct.13. DHS beat Jefferson West in straight sets: 25-18, 25-12, then beat Piper 21-25, 25-19, 25-11.
During the first set, DHS came out strong, but West was able to counter the Wildcats’ attacks well in the beginning. Sophomore outside hitter Kaitlyn Bell, however, had some powerful hits that allowed DHS to stay in control throughout the game. Sophomore libero Maya Bascom’s strong performance also helped lead the Wildcats to a victory of 25-18.
In the second set, DHS, again, started off extremely well. Sophomore outside hitter Hannah Wilson was able to string together a few key hits as she adjusted to becoming a regular part of the varsity rotation. Sophomore middle hitter Ally Barnhart was also able to get a few important blocks down. Overall, the Wildcats stayed in control the entire game, and the team was able to cruise to a 25-12 victory.
Despite the victory against Jefferson West, the most exciting part of the night was when DHS battled Piper High School.
DHS defeated PHS in the Lansing Invitational tournament earlier this year, so the Wildcats knew what to expect. However, PHS refused to roll over and give DHS another easy victory.
In the first set, DHS struggled coming out of the gate. There were several unforced errors that made the Wildcats fall behind quickly. PHS’ strong offense and prominent middle hitter also proved to be an issue for the Wildcats. DHS was unable to recover and make up for the errors despite a late push from the team and ended up losing 21-25.
DHS struggled early once again in the second set, digging themselves into a 6-2 hole. However, a time out from head coach Lindsay Hothan helped the team recuperate and tie the game 8-8, and eventually take the lead. PHS tied the game again 15-15, but Bascom and setter Haley Cuba helped DHS recover and take the win 25-19.
In the third set, a kill by Barnhart immediately got DHS’ energy up and helped the Wildcats get to an early lead, fueled by a string of ace serves from freshman all-around player Taylor Ellis. Senior middle hitter Jackie Kennard, Ellis and Bell also contributed with more key hits that found the gaps in PHS’ defense and let DHS keep control and get the win 25-11.
According to Kennard, the wins were important for the Wildcats’ Sub-State rankings.
“These wins improved our record and will help us improve our ranking at Sub-State, so I think that it’s important that we remember that the more wins that we have, the better our ranking will be at Sub-State. As long as we keep competing over our next few games the way we did tonight, we should have a good sub-state,” Kennard said.
Sub-State was not the only reason that the win was important, however. According to Hothan, it was also “good to see” that the Wildcats were able to improve throughout the game.
“Against Piper, we started off not really playing like ourselves. We talked about that, and I was hoping to see the girls turn it around and that’s what they did. We had to remind ourselves what our goals were for this season and that we had to keep moving forward in terms of improving and they went out there and fixed it, so I appreciate that,” Hothan said. “I thought our blockers stepped up and did their job. We talked very specifically about them and what they had to do … Our hitters started swinging in the gaps which is exactly what they needed to do. And, overall, our communication was the most important thing. That’s what needed to change, and that’s what they fixed.”
Kennard agreed, adding that “…at first, we were a little timid, we were a little quiet for the first couple of sets. But in the third, we picked it up. We realized that if we wanted to win, we had to really pull it together that third match, so I think that we did a good job of doing that.”
Even though the games were more of a team effort, Hothan belives that there were a few key players who really stood out.
“I saw some really positive energy from Kaitlyn Bell tonight, [she was] really pumping her teammates up and bringing good energy out onto the court and I love seeing that. Taylor Ellis had some fantastic swings, and there was consistency from Haley Cuba. Really, I think it was a team effort, but I like to see those individuals stepping up,” Hothan said.
During a post-game huddle, it was also revealed that the win against PHS marked Hothan’s 150th win as head coach.
“I guess it feels good … I had no idea. Honestly, the best thing is that this group of girls is such a fun group to coach. So any win, regardless of what number it is, always feels fun with them and always feels good with them. I’m just excited that I get to coach them,” Hothan said.
The Wildcats’s play next on Tuesday, Oct. 18 against Spring Hill High School and look to become outright league champions. They also play Thursday, Oct. 20 at home against Mill Valley High School for the annual ‘Dig Pink’ game.