By Bill Battle
Missourian Sports Editor
It might not have been a championship, but defense certainly won a huge bragging rights match for the Washington volleyball Lady Jays Monday night.
Washington (14-15-1) came back from a one-game deficit to beat crosstown rival Borgia (14-11-3) at the Blue Jay Gym, 16-25, 28-26, 25-17.
“In a game of momentum, you’ve got to take those chances when you get them when the momentum shifts,” Washington Head Coach Kym Blankenship said. “We barely squeaked out that second game. A lot of it had to do with our defense adjusting. Borgia runs a really fast offense and it took a while for our defense to adjust. Solid defense saved us.”
Borgia Head Coach Brad Bruns credited his team’s effort in the first game.
“I thought we played incredible in the first game,” Bruns said. “We ran the offense really well, the serve receive went really well. Our attackers were doing well. It wasn’t until the end of the second game when we found the way to come back, but couldn’t finish it out. We let Washington control the tempo in the third game. They played a great game. Washington’s defense was incredible.”
The Lady Jays showed superior skills in keeping the ball off the floor throughout the match, frequently scrambling around to keep the ball off the floor to finally be able to record a terminating hit or tip.
“They forced us to change our game plan,” Bruns said. “They controlled the tempo and we had to adjust.”
Meanwhile, Borgia’s defense struggled at key times, particularly on serve receive in the second and third games.
Borgia made 29 digs in the game, but also committed 29 defensive errors.
On serve receive, the Lady Knights graded out at two on a three-point scale, frequently limiting options at the start of a play. That especially showed in the third game, when Borgia only had 16 attack attempts in contrast to 23 in the first set and 34 in the second.
Washington also received a boost on senior night as Kirstie Leslie returned from missing the majority of the season due to injury. Leslie suffered a concussion early in the season and only recently has been cleared to return to practice.
Declared fit, Blankenship wasted no time in putting her into the match.
“We moved some people around,” said Blankenship. “Kirstie is back, so we moved her to the middle. She’s been out most of the season. Being the type of athlete she is, she was able to move back into the middle. Hannah (Leslie) moved back to the outside and was able to contribute. We’re still moving kids around and still trying to find spots for everyone.” As mentioned, it was senior night and the Lady Jays honored Kirstie and Hannah Leslie along with Rachel Jackson, Lauren Borgerding and Elizabeth Brinkmann.
“It didn’t hurt that it was senior night,” said Blankenship. “We had good fans, good support and we needed everything we could get to play a program like Borgia and beat them.”
Another key for Washington was the seventh player. Washington’s student fans attended in good numbers and made lots of noise, particularly with Borgia right in front of the WHS student section in the second and third games. They made it very difficult for Borgia to communicate and possibly contributed to several Borgia service errors in the second and third games.
“When you play at Hermann, their crowd is loud,” Blankenship said. “If you have a good crowd, they’re going to be noisy. It takes good focus as a player to overcome it. We’ve played in gyms where it’s been crazy. I told my kids that they have to get mentally tougher. That’s part of it. We definitely had good support tonight. I was glad to see all of our students come out.”
Bruns said it was a playoff atmosphere.
“Any time you go to Washington, you expect a big crowd,” Bruns said. “They’re going to bring their A game anytime they play Borgia, especially on senior night.
Borgia does not enjoy that type of vocal support for home matches and has not done well under that type of pressure this season with losses at Rosati-Kain and Hermann being examples.
“Our girls have got to be bigger than that,” Bruns said. “They cannot let the atmosphere control how you play the game. Let your actions do the talking. Take ownership for your mistakes, shrug them off and go out and go after the next ball.”
Bruns scrambled to find a successful alignment in the second and third games and used every available player to try to grab momentum.
Jackson led Washington with a double-double of 13 kills and 14 digs. She also had five aces.
Kirstie Leslie and Kara Herron each had five kills. Jenna Barhart had three kills, Hannah Leslie posted two and Lauren Borgerding ended with one kill.
Brinkmann had 14 assists and Emily Voss posted 10.
Brinkmann and Erica Diener each had one ace.
Diener was the top defensive player with 19 digs. Voss and Barnhart each added seven digs and Kelly Gauzy posted five digs.
Junior Sarah Geatley led Borgia with 11 kills in 17 attempts. That included three kills in four attempts in the final game.
Hanna Glastetter and Erin Hillerman each had six kills. Janie Arand, Emma Kriete and Taylor Mentz each had five kills. Clara Blatt and Molly Arand had one kill each.
Janie Arand played setter in the 5-1 offense and recorded 31 assists. Jordan Kriete, Geatley and Mentz each added two and Blatt ended with one.
Molly Arand had the libero jersey and recorded 14 digs. Next was Emma Kriete at five. She was followed by Jordan Kriete at three, Janie Arand and Mentz at two each and Alivia Brinker, Blatt and Glastetter with one apiece.
Borgia served five aces and eight errors. The errors all came in the second and third games.
Mentz had three aces while Emma Kriete served two.
Glastetter was the blocks leader at 1.5. Hillerman had one and Emma Kriete and Mentz contributed block assists.
In the first game, Borgia broke an 11-11 tie with a Hillerman kill and never looked back.
In the second game, Washington broke away from a 17-17 tie to reach game point at 24-20 on a Kirstie Leslie kill.
Borgia came back to tie at 24-24 on a kill by Mentz.
Borgia went up on an error and had match point, but Jackson got a kill.
Washington missed on its next game point attempt, but went up on another Jackson kill and won the game when Borgia misplayed a ball sent over.
A Borgia service error at 6-6 gave Washington the lead in the third game and the Lady Jays never looked back. Washington was able to comfortably cruise to the title from there.
Washington still has a chance to win the Gateway Athletic Conference Central title.
“We need to win our last conference game (against Holt Tuesday) and we need one team to lose and that would give us first place in our conference,” Blankenship said. “That would be great. One of our goals this year was to finish higher in our conference.”
Washington closes out the season Thursday at former conference rival Duchesne starting at 5 p.m.
Borgia closes out its season with the Archdiocesan Athletic Association showcase match at home against Kennedy Wednesday. That will be a varsity-only contest starting at 5 p.m. The Lady Knights travel to Hermann Thursday with freshman action beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Overall, it was a successful home event for Washington. The Lady Jays swept the freshman match. While Borgia won the JV match, Washington took a game and pushed Borgia in the other two contests.