Westfall Mustangs volleyball
SOSA Staff

SOSA Staff

Westfall outlasts Circleville in instant classic

The Mustangs earned a five-set win over Circleville.

SOSA Staff

CIRCLEVILLE — Of all the Pickaway County rivals that Westfall has played in the last four seasons, until Tuesday, Circleville was the only team the Mustangs didn’t own at least one victory over.

But after the dust settled inside of the Tiger Den on Tuesday, Westfall finally got that proverbial monkey off its back.

Despite the Tigers seizing a 2-1 match lead, Westfall (1-0) stormed back to force a fifth set and ended on an 8-1 run to take home a five-set victory by a 27-29, 25-22, 23-25, 25-17, 15-8 final.

“This was huge for us, especially us seniors since we have never beaten Circleville,” Westfall’s Marissa Mullins said. “It’s an incredible feeling and we wanted this. We’ve set high goals for ourselves and coming out the very first game against a rival and finally winning really sets the tone for our season. We had some JV players who had to step up and adjust quickly to the varsity speed, but they did a great job.”

Westfall came into the game without two key pieces in senior setter Claire Latham and senior libero Madi Brown. But that opened the door for sophomores Jaylyn Wippel and Ava Heath to make their presence felt.

Wippel handled setting duties and finished with 51 assists, 12 digs and three aces, while Heath added 24 digs and three aces to the mix.

“They did such an outstanding job. I couldn’t have been more happy with how they played,” Westfall coach Stacy Caudill said. “Going from JV to varsity isn’t easy and we only had a couple practices to get them accustomed to everything. But they took it all in stride. The whole team did such a great job and played incredibly tough. I’m proud of them.”

After seven ties and four lead changes to open the game, both teams were tied 11-11 before a pair of power outages brought the game to a screeching halt.

But the energy was still reverberating throughout the gym, and once play resumed, Circleville (0-1) rode a 5-0 run to a 16-11 lead. The lead reached 20-14, but that was where Mullins led her team on a 7-1 run to tie the game at 21.

More back-and-forth ensued until Gabby McConnell registered a kill, followed by another Tiger point to claim the first set.

Westfall took a 5-4 lead in the second and never looked back. It held leads of 13-7, 16-10 and saw as big of a lead as 22-13. Circleville put the pressure on and fought back with a 9-2 run but a Mullins kill finished off the set.

PHOTOS: Images from Westfall’s win over Circleville

“We talked about staying focused and continuing to do the little things properly,” Caudill said. “We had 17 errors in the first set and you won’t win a volleyball match like that. So taking care of the ball was a huge point of emphasis.”

Following a kill from Cara Cooper and an ace from Morgan Blakeman, Circleville held a 9-7 lead in the third. It managed to keep a three-to-four point distance throughout the set before controlling its biggest lead at 23-17.

Westfall’s Aubrey Clark then stepped up and led her Mustangs on a 6-1 run with three kills to close the gap. But McConnell powered a kill to give the Tigers a 2-1 match lead.

On the brink of elimination, Westfall put the ball in the hands of Mullins and let her operate. What proceeded to follow was a set of pure dominance from the reigning SVC Player of the Year, ranging from kills to blocks in which Circleville had no answer for.

Add in kills from Clark and Ashley Hegarty on top of Mullins’ performance and the Mustangs overwhelmed the Tigers to force a decisive fifth game.

“Coach told us that we had to pull through and win for Claire and Madi, so we gave it everything we had,” Mullins said. “We wanted that fifth set, so we did what we needed to do and carried that momentum over.”

With neither team budging an inch, the score was deadlocked 7-7. Then Clark came alive with a pair of kills, followed by an ace from Wippel that took the wind out of Circleville’s sails.

A Mullins kill, fittingly, put the game on ice for the Mustangs.

“I started tipping, but realized that it wasn’t working. Hailey [Young] continued to talk to me and just told me to keep swinging,” Clark said. “I was a little nervous since I missed a couple spots but I just kept going for it and Marissa told me to go left with my swing and it worked out.”

In addition to Wippel and Heath, Mullins finished with 28 digs and 19 kills — both team-highs — alongside four blocks and three aces. Clark added 15 kills, Grace Wolfe had 24 digs and Hailey Young had 17 digs and 12 kills.

Westfall returns to action on Thursday at home against Logan Elm, while Circleville travels to Huntington that same evening.


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