McDERMOTT — There’s good reason to be excited about the Northwest Mohawks.
Throughout their first three matches this year, they’ve shown glimpses of just how good they can be, beating New Boston, Oak Hill and Eastern … and losing just one set in the process.
Monday evening, the program took another step forward, only it wasn’t in a win.
Hosting Waverly in Southern Ohio Conference action, Northwest took the first set by a 25-23 final but dropped the next three — 25-21, 25-21, 25-20 — suffering its first loss this fall.
But even in defeat, an important lesson plan continued to teach a young group how to be great.
“Overall, I wasn’t disappointed with how we played. We put forth effort and played as a team,” Northwest coach Elizabeth Lewis said. “Now in the fourth set, we lacked some communication and had some unforced errors we could’ve done without. But we’re working on that mental toughness and how to hold our intensity throughout the match. But overall, I’m pleased with how the season has started. We’re looking to regroup and come back strong tomorrow.”
In the first set, juniors Haidyn Wamsley and Val Eury led the Mohawks (3-1, 2-1 SOC II) into battle. Behind those two hitters, Northwest took a 15-12 lead midway through. After Waverly battled back to take its own lead at 20-19, the Mohawks ended the set on a 6-3 run to steal a 25-23 match-opening win.
Down 13-11 in the second, Northwest ripped off a 6-0 run to take a 17-13 lead. But the Tigers (3-1, 2-1 SOC II) called upon junior Carli Knight to take matters into her own hands. She did just that and led her teammates on a 7-3 run, seizing a 20-19 lead and, eventually, a 25-21 victory to tie the match.
“When we’re in trouble, we usually look for Carli,” Waverly coach Nancy Terry said. “But I feel like if we don’t have Carli, we do have some other choices and that makes all the difference.”
Sarah Thompson fit that description in the third and fourth sets. While Knight continued to pepper Northwest’s defense, Thompson stood tall in the middle, giving the Mohawks fits.
Her play allowed Waverly to squeak out another 25-21 victory, taking a 2-1 match lead.
“Sarah played well tonight,” Terry said. “There’s a lot to like about her in the middle. Tonight, I thought she complimented our offense well, and her blocking has been outstanding all season.”
The Tigers’ win in the third visibly took the wind out of Northwest’s sails. Waverly built leads of 14-9 and 21-15 in the fourth before sealing the victory with a 25-20 win.
“I think a lot of it just comes down to mental toughness,” Lewis said. “That can be hard. A lot of it, I think, just comes down to experience and being in these situations. We’re still working.”
Knight led the Tigers with 16 kills and 26 digs while Thompson added 11 kills and 13 digs. Hailie Silcott also played well at the setter position, posting five kills, 19 digs and 37 assists.
Statistics for Northwest weren’t immediately available after Monday’s contest.
The Mohawks are back in action Tuesday evening, traveling to Minford, while Waverly awaits the opportunity to host Wheelersburg on Thursday.
Lewis hopes her girls can take what they’ve learned and continue an impressive start to the year.
“We pretty much have the same group of girls. Now some of them are playing different positions and they’re still learning how to do that, but just playing together has helped,” Lewis said. “We’re definitely starting on a better foot than we did last year.”
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