No. 7 Wahconah shakes off slow start to top Ware, advance in Western Massachusetts Division III volleyball tournament
DALTON — The Wahconah volleyball team saw its season hanging in the balance after dropping the first set to a team that eliminated it in each of the last two years.
The Warriors battled back in the first, but Ware pulled away for an early advantage. During the intermission between sets, the Warriors had time to relax, regroup and reassess their plan of attack. The host returned to the court a sharper, more focused team, leading to a 3-1 victory in the first round of the Western Massachusetts Division III tournament on Thursday. The set scores were: 24-26, 25-13, 25-12 and 25-14.
"I think that's been the thought throughout the day. You hear little things here and there like 'this could be our last game,'" Wahconah senior Emma Parkington said. "That's a lot of tension and anxiety. In the first set you could tell we were a little weary. But as soon as we got that run and started to come back, even though we lost, I think we knew we were really in it. And we really had to work for it and I think we did."
The No. 7 Warriors first counterattack focused on locating No. 10 Ware's big hitter Jordan Halgas. Halgas entered the match with over 200 kills and she made her presence felt early with several big spikes. In the second set, Wahconah used Parkington, senior Kelsey LaFreniere and junior Cassie Tobler in the middle to block Halgas.
Halgas' kill put the Indians up 5-4 in the second, but the Warriors responded with 10-1 run. Strong serving allowed Wahconah to close out the set, winning 25-13.
Ware tried to counter Wahconah by using its blockers to stuff Parkington, but senior Laiken Cornwell-L'Hote made the Indians pay on the opposite side. She had multiple kills during a 9-0 run in the third set, putting her team up 16-8. Ware answered with three straight points, but a service error gave the ball back to Wahconah. Cornwell-L'Hote added back-to-back kills and the Warriors ended the set on a 9-1 run. Cornwell-L'Hote had six of her 13 kills in the third set. She had a block, five aces and five digs as well. Parkington had 14 kills, 12 digs and four aces. Jess Warren had 20 digs and four aces. Francesca Gigliotti added 28 assists.
Cornwell-L'Hote said she tried her best to convert scoring opportunities opposite Parkington.
"I just know I have to do what I have to do to get the points that I need," Cornwell-L'Hote said. "Whether that's off of other players, or cheering for the team, I try to do whatever I can to lift the team up."
Wahconah jumped out to another big lead in the fourth set, but Ware continued to fight. The Indians got within one point, but LaFreniere's block put the Warriors up 14-12. They closed the final set on an 11-2 run.
The win ended Wahconah's losing streak against Ware and allowed it to advance in the tournament for the first time in four tries. Coach Dave Lussier said now that the monkey is off of their backs when it comes to advancing in the tournament, his players can focus on a third meeting with No. 2 Lee on Monday.
"We're looking forward to moving on to Monday," he said. "Now we can really focus on our next match which will be against Lee. ... We know each other pretty, so I think that we can play competitively with them. ... Hopefully we can go down to their house and have a good night."
Akeem Glaspie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @TheAkeemGlaspie on Twitter and 413-496-6252.
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