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Volleyball: Lambert cruises into championship match after 3-0 win
Taylor Nelson
Lambert sophomore Taylor Nelson spikes a ball Thursday during the Longhorns' 3-0 win against West Forsyth in the Area 5-7A tournament.

Missy Hall knew the ball wasn't going to drop. 

So, when Miranda Hardin came charging toward the bench after a stray ball, she had plenty of room to dive and make the play. 

Lambert lost the point, but the Longhorns dominated Thursday's match against West Forsyth 3-0, advancing to Saturday's first-place game against Milton.

Miranda Hardin
Lambert junior Miranda Hardin celebrates after winning a point Thursday during the Longhorns' 3-0 win against West Forsyth. - photo by David Roberts
"These girls are going to take every chance to get the ball, and that's the way they started the season," Hall said. "They're not going to let anything drop, and that's a big deal. That's one of our goals: No dropped balls."

Lambert (21-12, 6-0 Area 5-7A) topped the Wolverines 25-19, 25-22, 25-19 and has yet to lose a single set in area play.

Senior Ally Hall led Lambert with 19 kills, chipping in 16 assists and 11 digs.

"Luckily for us, she's a senior," West Forsyth head coach Jake Dickey said. "That's probably the last time we'll ever play her, on a positive note."

Sophomore Taylor Nelson racked up 15 kills at outside hitter for the Longhorns, including seven in the second set alone. Nelson also had 12 digs, a pair of aces and a block. 

Lambert has shifted its lineup around because of injuries to two of its middle backs, forcing Sarah Black and Ella Beyer to play out of position. 

Black had eight kills, two blocks and an ace, while Beyer added two kills and two blocks. 

"So, the middles that we have right now are not middles — they're right sides," Hall said. "That's what's happened all season. Every week it's something different, and people step into a new role and they just do it. The confidence that the rest of the team puts forth to these other girls is just amazing. They blow my mind.

"All the pieces just keep falling in the right places. They get mixed up, but then we put them back in. It's just a great group of girls."

Ally Hall
West Forsyth senior Olivia Mooney, right, returns a ball while Lambert senior Ally Hall tries to block it Thursday during the Longhorns' 3-0 win in the Area 5-7A tournament. - photo by David Roberts
West Forsyth (14-27, 2-4 Area 5-7A), which is guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, will play South Forsyth Saturday in the third-place game.

Freshman Reece Rhoads led the Wolverines with eight kills. Fellow freshman Lymaris Vasquez added five.

"Two of our better hitters are freshmen. We've got youth pretty much in every position," Dickey said. "I'll have to look at the scores, but I'm pretty sure that's the closest anybody's played Lambert in our region. I feel pretty good. Obviously, you get competitive and you want to win, but I feel like every match around 19 it was either close, or we were up one or down one."

West held a 19-16 lead in the third set, but Hardin's second ace of the game sparked a 9-0 run that the Longhorns used to close out the match.

"She's been on varsity since her freshman year, and to watch her grow the way she has — she's a spark plug, she's got leadership abilities and she's involved in so many plays," Hall said.

West's 25-22 loss in the second set is just the third time Lambert has allowed 22 points in area play.

With just two seniors on the roster, Dickey points to next season as West's chance to potentially contend for an area championship.

Cayla Cowart
West Forsyth sophomore Cayla Cowart celebrates after winning a point Thursday during the Wolverines' 3-0 loss to Lambert in the Area 5-7A tournament. - photo by David Roberts
"Our young players are getting competitive," Dickey said. "And at the beginning of the season, they let mistakes bother them, and they were getting blocked, because they're not used to that. With their club, they're playing girls their age. I told them these are girls who are three years older than you. They're getting used to that, and they're not backing down."