WEST PORTSMOUTH — In volleyball, momentum can be your best friend or your worst enemy.
Both the Portsmouth and West volleyball teams learned that on Monday night. Though the Senators cruised to a win in game one, a late-set Trojan run shifted the perspective of the entire match, and Portsmouth went on to win 22-25, 25-15, 25-16, 25-21 at Portsmouth West High School.
“That whole entire match was just a giant momentum shift,” West head coach Brittany Sessor said.
In the early going, West had all the energy on its side. The Senators quickly jumped out to a 10-4 lead on the back of strong serves from Haleigh Throckmorton and Terra Butcher. Even as Portsmouth battled back to cut the lead to just four points, Throckmorton again stepped behind the line to send the Senators on another run.
The Senators would eventually build an insurmountable 22-13 lead, thanks to an aggressive offensive approach. West recorded 11 kills in the first set, including three from Butcher.
“I think we just came out a little nervous,” Portsmouth coach Sarah Prosch said. “There’s something about coming in (to West) that makes us a little nervous.”
Though West eventually took game one, it didn’t come without a late charge from Portsmouth. The Trojans pieced together a 9-3 run over the final portion of the first set, a run that included three kills from Aiden Fields. Lyda Spencer picked up four points from behind the service line during the charge.
The outburst from Fields and Spencer proved to be the spark to ignite Trojan offensive engine. From that point forward, the momentum was clearly on Portsmouth’s side.
“We played well on offense in the first game, but from then on it felt like we were playing defense,” Sessor said. “You just can’t win when you’re always playing defense.”
Throughout the next two sets, Portsmouth’s aggressive strategy kept play close to the net and kept the Senators on the defensive. In game three, a balanced offensive strategy led by Fields, Spencer and Bailey Horsley helped the Trojans build a 20-15 lead. Andi Queen did the rest, recording a big kill on a long volley and picking up four straight service points to help Portsmouth even that match at a game apiece.
Queen also stepped up big in crunch time in the third set. After the Trojans built a six-point lead at 15-9, the Senators got a few good serves (including an ace) from Throckmorton to cut the deficit to 15-13. But after a timeout, Spencer followed a Horsley ace with a kill to set the Trojans straight. That’s when Queen stepped behind the line and ran off the final four points of the game to give the Trojans a one-game edge.
In the final set, West seemed to regain some of that early-match magic — but they simply didn’t have enough time. The Senators were able to erase an early 6-2 deficit, and the two teams traded points from there.
Later Fields would put Portsmouth up four with a strong turn with the serve, but Madison Williams stunted the Trojan run with a big kill. That’s when Hannah Dixon ran off three straight points for the Senators, bringing the teams into a 21-21 tie.
Anna Marie Raies’ kill gave the serve back to Portsmouth, and the Trojans appeared to gain a two-point advantage on another hard spike. However, an inadvertent whistle by the referee wiped off the point, forcing a replay with the Trojans holding a slim 22-21 lead.
The following point may have been the longest of the night. Both the Trojans and Senators each came up with a few spectacular digs to keep the ball in play, but ultimately it was Raies again who came up with the kill. Two points later, Fields ended up with a resounding spike to give Portsmouth the win.
Both teams will take the floor again on Tuesday. Portsmouth travels to Ironton, and Prosch hopes that her team can use the momentum to continue its 13-match OVC winning streak.
“This was an emotional game, so there’s always a chance that we could have a letdown tomorrow,” she said. “That was the first thing I said to them in the locker room: ‘We can’t have a letdown tomorrow.”
As for West, they open SOC II play tomorrow on the road against conference heavyweight Waverly.
“All we can do is take care of our team,” Sessor said. “We just need to eliminate the errors, and we’ll be fine.”
Reach Alex Hider at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWrtier