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Volleyball: Lambert tops West Forsyth in battle for first place
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Lambert senior Taylor Nelson, second from right, celebrates Thursday with sophomore Faith Lee, second from left, after winning a point during a 3-1 victory over West Forsyth. - photo by David Roberts

Faith Lee played two matches Thursday evening. 

The first match was much more expected, as Lambert's sophomore setter faced West Forsyth' JV team in a 2-1 loss.

The second match is one she'll remember for a while. With starting varsity setter Claire Jenkins unavailable because of injury, Lambert head coach Missey Hall called upon Lee to help run the varsity offense. 

Lee delivered in the spot start, pacing the Longhorns to a 3-1 win to remain undefeated in Area 6-7A play. Lambert won 20-15, 21-25, 25-21, 25-16. 

"Faith played the JV match before this, then came up and played varsity and did an absolutely amazing job," Hall said. "I can't say enough good things about her composure, how she carried herself on the court and how she delivered the ball. It was wonderful."

Lambert and West Forsyth entered the match undefeated in area play, with the result of Thursday's match determining first place. 

Despite the pressure, Lee said the team's camaraderie helped her feel at ease. 

"Everyone on varsity is just upbeat and has so much energy," she said.

Lambert and West swapped the first two sets, with the Wolverines building a 15-7 lead at one point in the second set before winning 25-21.

Lambert's offense started to click in the third set, though, as four straight kills from Taylor Nelson and back-to-back kills by Ella Beyer turned a one-point Lambert lead into a 22-17 advantage. Moments later, Francesca Popescu received the set-point serve and passed to Lee, then Lee lofted a perfect set to Triya Veeramani, who delivered the set-clinching kill. 

Lambert was firing on all cylinders in the following set, winning 13 of the first 17 points to take control. Nelson had five kills in the fourth set, while Beyer added four, and Jordan White had two kills and a couple of stuffs at the net.

Nelson finished with 18 kills, 19 digs and two aces.

One of three Lambert seniors honored Thursday as part of senior night, Nelson's duties extended between points and after sets, and they included helping Lee acclimate to the varsity level.

"I just told her to play loose and not nervous," Nelson said. "It's the same game, just a little bit faster. She played awesome and I was really proud of her."

Thursday's match provided Lee an opportunity to reunite with her older sister, Aubrey Lee, who is a senior.

"It was fun playing with her again, because I played with her in middle school, but I hadn't played with her in a while," Faith said. "So, that was fun."

Nithi Karthikeyan also helped handle the setting duties and finished with a team-high four aces.

"She got Final Four experience last year because of COVID and everything that we had," Hall said. "You wouldn't be a Lambert volleyball player down the region stretch if you didn't face some adversity. That's Lambert volleyball. I was so proud of the way they always seemed to pull together. I can fit different pieces together and they can make it work and they play as a unit. So, that was a wonderful thing to see happen tonight."

Beyer finished with 17 kills, 16 digs and two aces, while Molly Kate Patten tallied a hitting percentage of .500. 

White and Dani Cortes each had five kills, and Popescu had 18 digs and an ace.

"It was a very balanced offense, and that's a testament to these setters who deliver the balls," Hall said. "They delivered balls wherever they needed to. That's a hard thing to do, stepping into that role."

Lymaris Vasquez led the Wolverines with 14 kills, while Reece Rhoads added 10 kills and Karsyn Theobald had eight kills. Vasquez also had 14 kills and five aces. Kendall Gentry played lights out and led West with 22 digs.

"That was a tough win, and to have these girls rebound the way they did against an incredible team in our region, I'm just blown away over what they did tonight."

Lambert [22-7, 4-0 Area 6-7A] will step out of area play Saturday against Woodward Academy before its regular-season finale against Denmark 6 p.m. Thursday. West [25-12, 3-1 Area 6-7A] will host Gainesville at 6 p.m. Tuesday.