MARIETTA — Throughout its postseason run, Lambert’s volleyball team never seemed to care about its circumstances.
The Longhorns were quite the banged up team, but that didn’t stop them from two thrilling five-set wins in their first two playoff rounds. But in the Elite Eight on Saturday, Lambert finally fell short against a heavily favored Walton team, as the Longhorns were swept 25-12, 25-18, 25-7 to end their 2019 season.
Lambert ends its year with a 24-13 overall record.
“I was super proud of how well they fought,” Lambert head coach Missey Hall said. “We came in knowing they're going to get kills. Next-ball mentality was going to be super important. They were going to get their kills, they were going to get their blocks, and we had to do the simple things on our side like rounding out on defense, making sure our block is solid, making sure our serves are in seams.
“They gave it everything they had, and who would have thought we'd be in this position with all the injuries and the hardships we've had this season?”
Walton certainly seemed to live up to its billing in the first set, with the Raiders jumping out to a 10-2 lead with the help of a 6-0 run. Their passes were crisp and well placed, and up front, Walton’s Phoebe Awoleye and Ashlyn Goolsby were blocking plenty of shots. An Ally Hall kill began a 4-0 run for Lambert midway through the opening game, but Walton responded with its own 4-0 run and held off the Longhorns late to take the 1-0 lead.
Thanks in part to some uncharacteristic mistakes from the Raiders, Lambert was able to show much more fight in the match’s second set. Both teams swapped four lead changes throughout, and it wasn’t until the Raiders had taken a 19-15 lead that they were in full control.
“Our unforced errors went down and theirs went up, so they helped us a little bit there,” Missey Hall said. “But our blocking was much better and our defending was much better in the second set.”
Unfortunately for the Longhorns, their improved blocking and Walton’s mistakes didn’t last. The Raiders climbed out to another 10-2 lead to open the third set, and Lambert was never really competitive the rest of the way, leading to their eventual playoff exit.
“In the third set their offense ran beautifully,” Missey Hall said. “We had a really hard time stopping anything they were doing. Our blocking struggled in that third set.”
Ally Hall led Lambert with eight kills and six assists, while Taylor Nelson added three kills and 10 digs for the Longhorns. Sarah Black had five kills and two blocks, while Miranda Hardin finished her night with one ace and eight digs.
Lambert’s season may not have ended with a win, but there were plenty of smiles to go along with the tears after the game ended, as the Longhorns looked back and appreciated everything they’d just accomplished.
“Every week that we got a little bit further in the state playoffs was just such a testament to their hard work, pulling together (and) overcoming injuries,” Missey Hall said. “Anything beyond that region championship and moving on in the state playoffs was just icing on the cake.”