HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL

Westwood stays undefeated in district with gritty four-set win over McNeil

The Warriors outlasted a wild fourth set to pick up their fourth straight District 13-6A win

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Sometime midway through the fourth set, things got a little crazy.

In a battle of teams with unblemished district records, the Westwood outlasted a furious rally from McNeil to beat the Mavericks 3-1 (25-21, 25-17, 19-25, 28-26) at home on Tuesday night. The Warriors are one of two teams still undefeated in District 13-6A play.

"It was a matter of making adjustments once McNeil stepped up their defense," Westwood coach Tara Nelson said. "We had a lot of leadership out on the floor and it was a good challenge for them. They need to know they can regroup and come back and get it. It was a confidence boost for sure."

Westwood rallied from five points down to tied the fourth set at 20 points apiece. The Warriors then held off a late push from McNeil as the final set went back-and-forth before Westwood won three straight points to take the set 28-26 and win their fourth straight district match.

Westwood's Audrey Quensel led the team with 11 kills, while Maggie Stout added 10 and Zoe Menendez and Caroline Suter each chipped in with nine. Kenzie Beckham led the way with 35 assists.

"We're fighters and we don't give up, that's for sure," McNeil head coach Kate Kennedy said. "We're totally different from any other team. The district is kind of wide open since we're only four games into it, so it's anybody's game."

McNeil got out to a 12-9 lead in the opening set after the teams traded point to open the match. But Westwood rallied to take a 21-19 and never looked back, scoring four of the final six points to take a 1-0 lead.

The Warriors got out to a lead early in set two and never gave it up. They stretched their lead out to eight points and never let the Mavericks get any closer.

McNeil rolled out a small lead in the third before Westwood tried to put the game away and rallied to take a 16-12 lead. But out of the timeout, the Mavericks won the next five points and closed out the set with an impressive block and ace that bounced off the net.

"We had a nice lead in the third set and then it was a complete shift in momentum," Nelson said. "Our servicing just fell apart. McNeil stepped up their defense and we weren't going to be getting kills from the 12-foot line. It forced us to re-strategize about what we wanted to do."

Nelson said they shifted things around tactically and once they started mixing in some shots they hadn't been using the entire game, it started to work and the Warriors started to regain momentum.

The Mavericks continued their strong play into the fourth set and took an early four-point lead. Westwood cut the lead to two but McNeil would re-extend its lead to five and force another timeout, setting up the back-and-forth finale.

Westwood beat Stony Point last Friday and the Mavericks on Tuesday without outside hitter Maddi Kriz, who will miss some time with an injured foot.

The senior Stanford beach volleyball commit is the team's leading offensive threat, but Nelson said she is one piece of the puzzle and the Warriors still have high expectations.

"Everyone was a little worried at first, but we kind of had to figure out who's going to cover for her," Nelson said. "But we have a good amount of leadership on the outside. They dug their layout of it and that's what matters.

Next up for the Warriors is a trip to Cedar Ridge, while McNeil looks to rebound with a win on the road against Hendrickson on Friday night.

"It should've gone five sets," Kennedy said. "We were up 20-15 when they called the timeout. We couldn't find an open spot and that kind of deflated our momentum and we couldn't get it back and it took the wind out of it."

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