Western sweeps Heritage to grab region semifinal berth

Western volleyball’s attack is at its best when it’s unpredictable — when Courtney Berry, Alema Atuaia and Olivia Nichols are all in rhythm.


Throw in right side hitter Hailey McDaniel and it’s just really difficult to figure out how to slow down the Warriors.


“Generally you have taller, outside blocks so when you set the right side, usually it’s difficult to get a good hit over,” said Western setter Andrea Vial. “But Hailey has been on the team and she’s proven herself to be a very good player and it’s awesome because no matter how big the block is, I can trust her to get it over.”


Heritage-Lynchburg found that out Tuesday night in the Region 3A West quarterfinals as the Warriors rolled 3-0 to advance to the region semifinals, winning 25-16, 25-19 and 25-19. Western will face Blacksburg Thursday in the semifinals at Turner Ashby at 6 p.m.


McDaniel came up with six critical kills for the Warriors in the win, giving an added dimension that opens things up for Vial, who notched 43 assists in the sweep.


“Once you get a good pass it gives you so many more options,” Vial said. “You can go back, you can go forward, you can go to the middle and the outside. The other side will have holes and if you have versatile hitters like we do you can set anywhere and they can tip, they can hit, they can hit the spots the other team can’t get to.”


One of the keys for the Warriors’ surge through the second half of 2016 has been the fact that the Warriors’ top hitters play rock solid defense on the backline too. McDaniel chipped in nine digs for Western Tuesday, following a trend that Nichols has been at the forefront of all season.


That defense transitions into some serious offense, with Nichols notching 13 kills, Berry putting together 12 kills and Atuaia finishing with 10 kills. That array of hitters coming at Heritage from all angles was too tough to counter.


“We all came in here with a great attitude and I think that really helped.. we just focused and were ready for everything,” McDaniel said.


Adriana Bland was also a big part of that defense-to-offense transition as she usually is, finishing with 19 digs on the night.


Western moves on to take on Blacksburg now, looking to qualify for the state tournament with a win.


“I’m very excited, it’s definitely scary but it’s nothing we can’t handle,” McDaniel said.