HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL

Westwood outlasts furious Leander rally in five-set thriller

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Westwood entered Tuesday night riding high atop the District 13-6A standings, while Leander had something to prove.

The Warriors held off a furious charge from the Lady Lions on Tuesday night to beat Leander 3-2 (26-24, 25-16, 8-25, 23-25, 15-11) on the road to win for the ninth straight match and stay undefeated.

"Even though we were up 2-0 after those first two sets, I wasn't overly happy with our level of play," Westwood head coach Tara Grant said. "Leander turned it on. That was the best defense we've played all season. This was our first five-set match and I'm proud of them for finishing things out."

The Warriors handed Vandegrift and Vista Ridge their first district losses entering Tuesday night. The Lady Lions had won three straight against Stony Point, McNeil and Cedar Ridge.

Even if Leander didn't come away with a win, it still proved to be a contender in an extremely competitive district.

"I told them that we need to quit looking at all these other schools as giants and start seeing ourselves as giants," Leander head coach Ashley Atkinson said. "We can compete with anybody. As long as we're competing and fighting, we can match up with anyone."

The Lions jumped out to an early lead in the first set and continued to hold a small lead midway through the set. The two teams traded the lead as the set went on before the Warriors won four of the final five to jump out a 1-0 lead.

Westwood jumped out to an early lead in set two and never looked back.

But it was the Lady Lions that looked different in the third set. At one point, they won 10 of 12 points during the middle part of the set to take an insurmountable lead.

Westwood fought back and tied the fourth set at 23 points apiece, but Leander won the final two points to force a decisive fifth set.

"We can't not fight on every point and every ball," Atkinson said. "I don't expect any more than 100 percent effort. I just said, ‘Imagine yourself winning this game." And they bought in and turned things around."

The Warriors took a 6-5 lead early in the fifth set. An ace from Leander junior Mya LeVaughn cut the lead to three and a Westwood error slimmed it just two. But the Warriors three of the final four points to stay unbeaten.

"It's a wake-up call," Grant said. "Every team in our district is very strong, and if you don't show up and play to your potential, that's what can happen. There's no room for complacency or to take plays off. This is a very mental game."

Westwood will be hoping its winning streak reaches double digits when the Warriors travel to Round Rock on Friday night, while Leander will look to rebound when it travels to face off against Hendrickson.

It was a tough and emotional loss to the Lady Lions, but it's a learning lesson for their playoff push over the second half of the season.

"I hope my kids do take the confidence from this match," Atkinson said. "We were able to compete with the top team in the district. I want them to recognize that all these teams we keep barely losing to, you can play with them, you've just got to have confidence in little moments."

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