Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
WAVERLY — It’s hard to beat a good team three times. Huntington is a darn good team.
Twice this season, Westfall handed the Huntsmen a loss … a five-set stunner on Sept. 10 and a four-set loss on Oct. 3. But for Huntington, the third time was a charm … and it came at the most important juncture of the season.
In a Division III district championship match Saturday, Huntington (18-7) handed the SVC champion Mustangs (20-4) a 25-18, 18-25, 26-24, 26-24 loss, claiming their first district title since 2016.
“I thought my defense did amazing,” a jubilant Huntington coach Tina Magill said. “I think every game, Megan Steele gained more confidence. Her hitting has improved all season long. So that was a big difference this time around. And our defensive coverage … it was just awesome.”
After winning the first set, by a 25-18 final … one where it went on a 4-0 burst to take a 20-16 lead late, Huntington dropped the second by another 25-18 final.
And in the third, it looked as if the season was all but over.
PHOTOS: Images from Huntington’s four-set win over Westfall in a Division III district championship
VIDEO: Huntington seniors Alyssa Steele, Lauryl Shope and Emily Morris discuss Saturday’s win over Westfall
Trailing 18-9, Steele and Allison Basye led an attack at the net that resulted in a 6-0 run midway through. Huntington eventually tied the set at 23 before stealing a 26-24 win for a 2-1 match lead.
“I think everyone just got up again,” senior Alyssa Steele said. “We kind of got down and wasn’t cheering as much. Once we got our momentum back, I think that really helped.”
Steele is onto something.
In the fourth, a back-and-forth affair, Westfall (20-4) held a lead for much of the set. But the Huntsmen, who were cheering loudly on their bench after every point, were able to use momentum to tie the game at 23 and 24 before eventually putting the Mustangs away for good.
The Huntsmen will now head back to Logan High School after a two-year absence from the regional round. This year’s senior class remember’s what that regional run back in 2016 felt like.
“It feels amazing. We didn’t beat Westfall in the season so we really wanted this tonight,” senior Lauryl Shope said. “We really wanted [a district title] last year. So to get back to the regional semifinals [this year], it’s amazing.”
Megan Steele led the Huntsmen statistically in the win with 17 kills and 19 digs while Basye added 14 kills and 16 digs. Katie Hirsch had nine kills, Alyssa Steele finished with 23 digs, Harmony Henneberger had 23 digs, and Shope ended the day with 11 digs.
For Westfall, SVC Player of the Year Kristin Phillips tallied 19 kills, 22 digs and five blocks. Josie Williams had seven kills, 16 digs and 25 assists, and Claire Latham ended the day with 14 assists, 19 digs and seven kills.
As the Mustangs end their season, the Huntsmen will now take on Berlin Hiland at 6 p.m., Thursday at Logan in a Division III regional semifinal.
The Hawks will come into that match at 25-1 after a four-set win over Cambridge in their own Division III district championship match.
“We just have to keep our energy up and play like we know how to play,” Alyssa Steele said. “If we do that, we’ll be good.”