West Forsyth and Denmark’s 2018 volleyball seasons couldn’t have been more different.
For the Wolverines, last year was historic, capped off by an improbable run to the Class 7A state semifinals after an up-and-down regular season. The Danes, on the other hand, were the county’s newest team, and with no seniors and little experience, they amassed just three wins.
But a year later, both squads look much more similar, with each built around a young core. They’re both moving on, but for West, turning the page on such a magical year can sometimes be difficult.
“They put a lot of stress on themselves,” West coach Jake Dickey said. “I'm like, ‘Girls, it's a new team. This is not last year's team.’ We've got talent but it's going to take us a little while. Hopefully it won't take us as long as last year.”
On Thursday, West faced Denmark and generated some hope that it could get out to a faster start than Dickey anticipates, with the Wolverines taking a relatively close two set, 25-12, 25-20 sweep over the Danes to open their season with a win.
“We had a lot more unforced errors, so that helped them out a little bit, then we settled down and took care of it after that,” Dickey said. “We've got a lot of new girls in new positions, so it'll take them a little while to get used to the newness.”
Denmark had the early lead in both sets. In the first, the Danes were up 3-2, but the Wolverines took advantage of mistakes to go on a 9-0 run midway through the set. Denmark could not make up the 10-point deficit, and West ultimately took the 13-point win to go up 1-0.
“We have a lot of talent,” West setter Olivia Mooney said. “We're starting off better than we did last year for sure.”
But while West started their first game of the season off well, the Wolverines needed to climb out of a significant hole in the second set. After a kill from Denmark newcomer Dominae Jordan, the Danes held a 9-3 lead, forcing West to take a timeout to regroup.
“The communication is better,” Denmark head coach Jaime Maxey said. “They've got a year under their belt. Everybody came back plus we added a couple of new players. Our new players are young, though. All these kids we added are young so we're just trying to get them incorporated (and) get them on board as soon as we can.”
But even with that early lead, West slowly climbed back in, tying the game at 17-17 as part of a 5-0 run, eventually coming away with a close five-point victory to seal the match. The Danes hope that as their younger players get more in-game time, they can get better at closing out their sets.
“That's experience,” Maxey said. “We made four mental errors in a row and had to get right back in. That's something that comes with experience and something we've got to work on. It's hard to do with a young team out there but we'll get there.”