By Matthew Martin/Sports Correspondent
After playing consistently good volleyball the second half of the season, West End played one consistently bad game in the state semifinals and it doomed the Walnut Grove squad.
The fifth-ranked Patriots fell to third-ranked Lexington, 25-21, 25-10, 25-18, last Wednesday (Oct. 31) at the Birmingham Crossplex.
In the end, it was the Golden Bears advancing to the Class 2A state final instead of a group of disappointed Patriots.
West End head coach Audra Noojin did not have an explanation as to why her team played a poor second game at the worst time.
“I felt like my girls competed in two of the games, but I don’t know what happened in that second game. I don’t know. I just don’t feel we were as consistent as we should have been.”
The competitive first and third games were not enough to overcome a strong Lexington squad, which is going after its eighth state championship.
Morgan Cleveland led the Patriots with 11 kills and 18 digs, while Courtney Oliver had seven kills and four blocks.
Also for West End, Brittany Self had five kills and two blocks. Elissa Self had 10 digs and Kaitlyn Waldrop had 21 assists.
For Lexington, Addie McGee had 22 kills and five blocks and Savannah Stults had 44 assists.
In the first match of the day, the Patriots defeated Hou-ston Academy in the quarterfinals, in a match that was not as close as the score would indicate, 25-16, 25-22, 25-21.
West End got a big match from Cleveland. The junior outside hitter blasted 21 kills while making 44 digs. She also had six blocks and two aces.
Also for the fifth-ranked Patriots (32-23), middle hitter Oliver had nine big kills, seven blocks and five digs. Senior Elissa Self had 20 digs for West End, while setter Waldrop set up the Patriots hitters with 43 assists.
West End was not fazed by the large arena and crowd in the Crossplex, something No. 10 Houston Academy (28-14) seemed to have a difficult time with in the early going.
“I just feel that the whole season is just practice getting ready for this,” said Noojin. “So I try to schedule the toughest teams. That’s how you get better, by getting out there and competing. I would rather play the bigger (and better) schools and compete and get better, than have a team I could be undefeated with. Because no one remembers your record, they only remember how far you went at state.”
For Houston Academy, Gillian Schuyler had 11 kills, eight blocks and nine digs. Also for the Raiders, Bailey Spivey had 20 assists and nine blocks.
“I’m so proud of my girls,” Noojin added. “They showed up and played hard. After playing here last year, we came prepared. We knew what to expect. I had a very good core of players coming back, and the girls that came up filled the roles I needed them to fill.”