wahconah players gather

Wahconah players huddle up during a home match against Greenfield.

DALTON — The Wahconah volleyball team made history Thursday night, playing the first-ever match inside the high school’s new gymnasium. The fact that the Warriors won the match made the night that much better.

Then making things perfect, the Warriors had won the final match in Ed Ladley Gym at the old high school, and that’s a bit of really nice symmetry.

“That’s a good thing to put on your coaching record, isn’t it?” Wahconah coach Dave Lussier said with a smile. “It’s nice.”

Wahconah swept Greenfield 3-0 in the curtain-raiser at the new gym. The set scores were 25-18, 25-21, 25-11. The Warriors broke a 6-6 tie in the third set with eight straight points that started a 19-5 burst to close out the third set and the match. It came just a couple of days after the Warriors swept Mohawk in the final match held in the old building.

“It’s a big deal to me and the team” to win the second home opener of 2021, said libero Olivia Wehner, a Wahconah co-captain. “We’re really fortunate to have a new school and to still be able to play sports in the pandemic. So, we’re all really grateful.”

Opening nights, whether on Broadway or in a new gymnasium, could be filled with nerves. Wahconah co-captain McKenzie LaBier was asked if she and her teammates might have been nervous for the first match, especially after spending the day in the new high school.

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“Honestly, I was just ready to come here and play,” LaBier said. “We have a great team and we’re all really close. It was nice to be able to come here. I really wasn’t nervous.”

Playing in a new gym can cause a team to make multiple adjustments to, among other things, the lights, the distance to walls and the space between the court and the bleachers. Since the new gym is larger than the old one and could host 1,100 fans if all the bleacher seats are pulled out, the geometry is definitely different.

“It’s not even the new gym. It’s the first week of school they started here too. They’re getting used to a new environment. We’ve only had two practices in here,” said Lussier. “So, it was almost an away match that’s at our home. I think the kids are getting comfortable to it pretty quickly, and I think we’ll be okay.”

Wehner did say that one of the bigger adjustments for the Warriors was not having the batting cage that hangs from the ceiling impact their game too much. The cage is right in the middle of the gym, and in fact, three game balls ended up being stuck in the netting.

“There was some stuff we had to work through, especially in practice, we’ve been playing on the side with the net, so we can use it to our advantage,” she said, “because a lot of balls are getting stuck in it and coming off of it funny.”

New Wahconah gymnasium

Wahconah volleyball played its first game in the new high school on Thursday.

Wahconah trailed 2-1 in the first set before rattling off seven straight points to take a lead it would not surrender.

In the second set, Wahconah led 15-11 before the Green Wave scored seven straight points to take an 18-15 lead, forcing Lussier to call timeout. The timeout stopped a 12-2 Greenfield run. Wahconah responded with 9-2 burst that not even two timeout calls by Greenfield could stop. The Warriors took set No. 2. It was going to take a massive effort by the Green Wave to come back and win the final three sets.

Greenfield had knotted the third-set score at 6-6 when Wehner could not hit the ball over the net. Wahconah took the lead back as Bre Robert had one of her team-high five kills after a serve by Greenfield’s Jenna Keith. Robert’s kill put Wahconah up 7-6 and started an 8-1 run of points that gave Wahconah what turned out to be an insurmountable 15-7 lead.

Wahconah’s Pricilla Jerri Lee handled the serving during that run.

“When we played Greenfield just two days ago, in the third set we kind of took the foot off the gas a little bit,” Lussier said. “We just kind of refocused, and we didn’t want to go down that same road again.”

The Warriors won at Greenfield 3-1, losing the third set before bouncing back and winning the fourth.

Wehner, who ended up with a match-best 14 aces and eight digs, scored seven straight points to put Wahconah within two of taking the set and the match.

“As long as I get the first [serve] in, I’m set,” Wehner said. “I get kind of locked in a groove.”

Katelyn McCormack got to serve the match out, giving Wahconah its 10th win. The Warriors are 10-3.

Lee had nine digs and seven assists, while Hannah Friedman and Sasha Fyfe also had nine digs each. Casey Wilson had eight aces, LaBier had three kills.

LaBier was asked about the key to victory. She cited an ability to think about the point ahead, not the point or points that came before.

“I think playing together and not getting stressed out, and going with it,” said LaBier, “and forgetting about what happened and moving on.”

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6253.

Sportswriter-Columnist

Howard Herman is a sports columnist at The Berkshire Eagle. The dean of full-time sportswriters in Western Mass., he has been with the Eagle since 1988, and is a member of the New England Baseball and Basketball Hall of Fame.