For Western Albemarle volleyball, Wednesday’s long, exhausting first point against Spotswood had a familiar feel to it.
“We do this one drill that we all hate and it’s basically that for 15 minutes,” said Western senior Olivia Nichols. “We fought really hard and I think that play right there helped our offense and defense say, hey, if we can keep up with that we can keep up with everything.”
The Warriors did better than keep up, they powered their way to a 3-1 win over the Blazers by scores of 25-23, 25-18, 21-25 and 25-21 in the Conference 29 quarterfinals at Fluvanna County High. Nichols was a big reason why with 14 kills and five on the night, many of which came right down the line as she found a groove and kept blasting away on sets from Andrea Vial. Two of those kills came in the closing minutes of the decisive fourth game.
“Olivia did so awesome and her defense was outstanding,” said Western senior Courtney Berry. “Every set that went up she somehow got a touch on it, she just had an amazing night.”
For her part, Nichols knew that there was a lot on the line. With the victory, Western locked up a Region 3A West tournament berth and won’t have to face a do-or-die consolation game Thursday night. Instead they’ll face Turner Ashby in the conference championship game.
“I knew what we had at stake and I was really excited,” Nichols said. “Our team chemistry is great, I was definitely confident in our team and just in happy to be out there.”
That team chemistry showed on offense where Nichols was just the tip of the spear in a multi-faceted attack. Vial dished out 46 assists, with Berry notching 13 kills while Alema Atuaia blasted 13 and Cassidy Wilson finished with six. Western had to have each and every one of those kills because Spotswood wasn’t surrendering anything easy. The Blazers played defense equal to the Warriors’ Adriana Bland and Atuaia-led effort, leaving it up to the Warriors front-line attack to solve it. Bland had 15 digs and Atuaia finished with 11.
After winning a hard-fought game one, the Warriors essentially cruised to the win in game, but Spotswood got into a rhythm in game three, forcing the Warriors to bounce back and try and close the door in the fourth. After taking what appeared to be an insurmountable lead, the Warriors made some mistakes and Spotswood made a few plays to get back into it.
Suddenly Western led by just 21-19 and called a timeout. They came storming back out and won 25-21 to seal the win.
The Warriors will face Turner Ashby in the conference championship game Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Fluvanna County High.