DALTON — Whether a project is due at midnight or needing to take dinner out of the freezer to defrost, a reminder never hurts.
Tuesday served as a reminder that the Lee volleyball team, despite an 18-month layoff, is coming off a 2019 campaign that included a trip to the Western Massachusetts Division III championship game.
The Wildcats never let go of the rope and held on to top Wahconah in a five-set roller-coaster ride with a final score of 21-25, 25-19, 25-18, 17-25, 15-13.
“Honestly [the last time a game felt this intense], was probably Frontier last season where everything was on the line [in the Western Mass. championship game],” Lee libero Rachel Wendling said.
Wendling added that the Wildcats (2-1) are at their best when everyone is communicating and wants the ball as a team, which was the case in Tuesday’s final set.
Kylie Joyce clipped the back-right corner of the court to give Lee an early 2-0 lead in the deciding frame. Wendling landed one of her three aces to bump the lead to 4-0, forcing a Warrior (1-2) timeout.
Lizzy Brown trimmed the net with a hit before it dropped on Wahconah’s side of the court, pushing Lee’s lead to 7-2. Brown had 17 kills and Joyce added another 15. Maddy LaRock and Makayla Schuerer each had 19 assists, igniting the offense.
“Lizzy is a great hitter and can put the ball wherever she wants on the court,” Wendling said. “Maddy, it’s her first year as a setter and she is doing a great job adjusting and putting the ball where hitters need it.”
Speaking of precision, the Warriors weren’t going to fold after four sets, and senior Kaylee O’Bryan was leading the rally.
O’Bryan, a technician at the net, can keep opponents guessing with her ability to create for her teammates, but also the awareness to turn a would-be pass into a soft tap over the net, catching the defense off guard. She finished with 22 digs, 19 assists and eight kills, two of which came back-to-back in the fifth set, cutting Lee’s advantage to 8-6.
Brown struck back with a kill that traced the left boundary before Schuerer delivered an ace to keep the Wildcats ahead at 11-8.
Wahconah freshman Sasha Fyfe left her fingerprints all over Tuesday’s game, including a sinking shot to keep the Warriors within two. Fyfe had five kills, 15 service points and three aces, including a serve that sealed the first set.
Kassidy Krejmas was a big part of the Warrior offense with a team-high 17 kills. In fact, Krejmas had at least four kills in the first and fourth set, helping Wahconah knot the game.
Joyce followed Fyfe’s point with a fastball that landed in the middle of the defense and broke a 13-13 tie, before the Wildcats sealed the deal on the following serve.
Tuesday’s match was the third of the season for both teams as student-athletes reclaim the spirit of sport.
“It is amazing for all of us,” Wendling said of being back on the court. “We really needed this season after COVID-19 [pushed everything back].
“It is nice to be back to spend as much time together as we can.”