WESTLAKE — After an un-Amherst-like first set, the Comets defense came to life to keep them alive against Westlake, but it just wasn’t enough as the Demons posted a 25-12, 26-24, 22-25, 25-22 Southwestern Conference win Tuesday night.
“That looked like it was open gym in June, it just was not good volleyball,” Amherst coach Laurie Cogan said about Game 1. “Then the kids started getting a little gritty and a little gutty.”
Westlake jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first set, and the lead ballooned to 17-6 as senior Leah Schmidt put down five of her 18 kills to go with four kills by Lexi Whitesell to stun the Comets.
Despite the dominating opening set, Demons coach Meghan Spriggs knew the night was not over.
“The first thing I said after the crossover was that Amherst was not going to roll over,” Spriggs said. “They are going to find a way to fight and find ways to play defense. We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy match.”
Amherst (6-6, 6-3 SWC) looked like its old self in the second set, pushing the Demons to the very end even after Westlake was on the verge of winning with a 22-17 lead.
Anna Cairns gave the ball back to her side with a kill and that was followed by an ace from Ellie Schenk and block-kills from Lauren Pisegna and Taylor Small to pull within 22-21 before a block-kill gave the serve back to Westlake.
The Demons (10-4, 7-2) pushed the lead to 24-21 before a couple of hitting errors and a Kaylin Betances kill tied the set at 24.
Schmidt and Sylvie Yappel gave the 26-24 win to Westlake with a kill and a block-kill. Both finished with double-digit kills — Schimidt with 18 and Yappel with 11.
The Demons attack was set up by senior setter Malorie Hurd, who finished the night with 54 assists.
That total could have been even higher had it not been for the back-row play of the Comets, who had five players finish with double figures in digs. Roslyn Hancock had 11, Schenk picked up 13, Voss dug out 15, Betances finished with 17 and Audrey McConihe continued her stellar senior year at libero with 32.
Amherst’s defensive fight paid off in the third set with a 25-22 win as Betances (20 kills), freshman Laken Voss (10 kills) and senior Taylor Small (13 kills) led a balanced hitting attack. Betances had five kills, while Voss and Small each had four kills.
Voss and Betances not only take turns swinging, they also take turns setting in their first varsity season. Voss had 24 assists, while Betances chipped in 14.
The big turning point in Game 3 came thanks to some solid defensive play at the net, helping turn an 18-17 Comets lead into a 23-18 advantage due to four block-kills in the middle against the heavy-hitting Demons.
Betances provided the final point to send the match to a fourth set as Amherst avoided the sweep.
“That was not the type of volleyball I expect out of our team,” Cogan said. “(Westlake) came out of the locker room fired up. They handed it to us — my hat is off to them — that is a very, very good Westlake team. They have size and can almost put the ball away at will.”
Westlake 25-26-22-25, Amherst 12-24-25-22
KILLS — (A) Kaylin Betances 20, Taylor Small 13, Laken Voss 10; (W) Leah Schmidt 18, Claire Brewer 11, Katie Whitsell 9, Lexi Whitesell 9.
DIGS — (A) Audrey McConihe 32, Betances 17, Voss 15, Ellie Schenk 13, Roslyn Hancock 11; (W) Schmidt 21, Jackie Moracz 16, Brewer 14.
ASSISTS — (A) Voss 24, Betances 14; (W). Malorie Hurd 54.
ACES — (A) Five players with 1; (W) L. Whitesell 3.
BLOCK-KILL — (A) Anna Cairns 5; (W) Sylvie Yappel 3, K. Whitesell 2, L. Whitesell 2.