Volleyball: Lambert navigates mini-rollercoaster for area win at West
Lambert's Ally Hall hits the ball against West Forsyth on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. - photo by Brian Paglia

Lambert volleyball coach Missey Hall says there has been a roller-coaster element to the Longhorns’ season thus far, though she’s not entirely surprised. Five seniors graduated from last season’s team that reached the state semifinals for the first time ever, and Hall designed a demanding schedule – maybe more demanding than she even realized.

“Our strength of schedule is insane,” Hall said.

Indeed, the Longhorns’ last action on the court was Friday and Saturday in the Ultra Ankle Louisville Volleyball Tournament. Lambert went 3-2 facing ranked teams from Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. “It was a great experience,” Hall said, but players got home late Saturday. Then Tropical Storm Irma wiped out Monday and Tuesday practices. Hall didn’t know what to expect going into Wednesday’s Area 5-7A match at West Forsyth.

So of all of Lambert’s roller-coaster moments so far this season, its 25-12, 25-20, 25-14 victory might qualify as a minor one. The Longhorns coasted in the first and third sets. In-between they overcame an early stretch of ineptitude by sheer persistence. In the end, they had a win and a 2-0 record in area play.

“I like the way they came out,” Hall said. “They came out strong.”

Lambert (23-9) commanded the first set from the start. A Madeleine Bertz kill gave the Longhorns a 4-1 lead. West later needed a timeout after Ashley Hills had consecutive kills for a 10-4 lead. The Wolverines (10-17) never threatened from there.

But Lambert’s roller-coaster tendencies surfaced in the second set. West’s Annie Velduis had consecutive blocks on Longhorns sophomore Ally Hall, and Lambert trailed 5-0 and needed a timeout.

“As much as we hate to say it, first couple points really do dictate the energy of a (set),” Ally Hall said.

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Lambert's Bella Tolone, left, and Madeleine Bertz go up for a block against West Forsyth on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. - photo by Brian Paglia

Point by point, Lambert whittled West’s lead away to tie the set at 12-12. The teams traded points until, trailing 16-15, Lambert got a kill from Hills, another from Claire Richey and an ace from Amanda Sinning to swing the match for good.

Ally Hall set a different tone in the third set. After Bertz and Belduis traded kills, Ally Hall had four straight kills. The first was a deft tip. The rest were emphatic hits, the kind that got Lambert players bouncing in celebration after each and portended a relatively comfortable win like the first set.

“Once we come together as a team mentally, and not only physically and energetically, then we play really well,” Ally Hall said.

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West Forsyth's Annie Velduis taps the ball over the net against Lambert on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. - photo by Brian Paglia

Afterward, Longhorns players circled together and conducted a negotiation that’s become standard this season. The team’s serve receive was hit hardest by last year’s departed seniors, particularly four-year starter Jordyn Moellering. Missey Hall has given the team a statistical mark on a 3-point scale to reach each match that measures their ability to send accurate passes from the backline up to the net for Ally Hall and fellow-setter Lael White to distribute.

Reaching that mark could result in getting off an upcoming practice. Players were eyeing Friday. Ally Hall noted the football team has a home game.

Instead, they came up short of the requisite mark.

“Very close,” Missey Hall said.

Lambert players held out hope, though. With another match at Forsyth Central on Thursday, it was possible their marks could be averaged. If the average was high enough, the Longhorns might get to miss a practice.

“Fingers crossed,” Ally Hall said.