On Diabetes Awareness Night (Digging For Diabetes) at West Union High School, it was Manchester who stole the show as the visiting Greyhounds swept the Dragons in three sets.
The evening started out on a positive note for the Lady Hounds. Senior Morgan Johnson entered the game with 998 career kills and by the time the score stood 4-4 in the first set, Johnson set off a kill that slammed off the floor prompting head coach Tabitha Spires to call a timeout to present the ball to Johnson and give her senior a hug while those in attendance gave her a standing ovation for her 1,000th career kill.
“It was cool to be a part of that,” Spires said. “I kinda got teary eyed. I met Morgan last year when I started coaching basketball so I’ve gotten pretty close to her. Morgan is just an all-around awesome athlete who works hard at everything she does and just to be a part of that, knowing she’s going to go somewhere when she’s finished here is just awesome and I look forward to watching her play in college.”
Johnson said after the game reaching that mark is the biggest accomplishment so far in her volleyball career.
“I think it was my biggest accomplishment,” Johnson said. “I tried not to show how excited I was because I didn’t want to feel like a show off but I was excited inside for myself.”
The newest member of the 1,000 kill club also said it was nice to be able to get the kill out of the way early so that it could propel the team throughout the game and so that she could focus on the game, rather than the countdown to 1000 in perhaps other, later sets.
“It helped a lot to keep my kills going,” Johnson said. “I knew it was in the back of my mind that I had to get it but it helped getting it in the beginning of the game instead of the end.”
Johnson’s 1,001st kill came immediately after on a rocket that struck a West Union player sending the ball into the stands.
While the score remained tight in the first set, the Dragons were playing from behind for the majority of it. West Union senior Kristen Grooms served an ace during play and an eventual run of play found Spires calling a timeout before her team surrendered the lead as the Dragons brought it back to 19-17.
Manchester looked strong enough to run away with the set after the break as they went up 23-19 when Grooms spiked the ball into the net, angrily sending the ball back for a Manchester serve, but from there the tide turned. Manchester senior Cassidy Spires couldn’t handle a serve to make it 23-21 and back-to-back-to-back aces from Grooms gave West Union a 24-23 lead.
But Johnson was having none of it as two kills by her, along with a lifting violation on the Dragons, propelled Manchester to a win in the first set, 26-24.
The second set started out close as well. The Greyhounds found themselves with a slim 11-10 lead after an ace by Cassidy Spires, forcing West Union head coach Debbie McClanahan to take a timeout. The score remained close a few minutes later at 17-16, but it was once again Johnson as the deciding factor in the set who nailed three serving aces in a row before a tip by senior Summer Wilbur won the second set for Manchester, 25-16.
The Greyhounds jumped out to a 10-5 lead in the third set, but the Dragons battled back to only trail 17-14 as Spires called a timeout to get her team to refocus.
“I put in a girl who’s been injured in so that kinda messed us up a little bit,” Spires said. “Our passing still wasn’t good and Summer was a little bit off tonight, I took her out of the game for a little bit. She was having a lot of fun and while it killed me to take her out, I thought, ‘Maybe if I take her out they’ll wake up a little bit’ and make them think, ‘Ok. Coach is serious now.”
West Union didn’t back down as the Dragons continued to battle, evening the set at 19, but the combination of seniors McKayla Smith and Cassidy Spires propelled the Greyhounds to the straight set win. Smith had two late serving aces and Spires had two big kills down the stretch. A long kill by sophomore Sierra Thatcher on what looked to be a broken play found the West Union court, giving MHS the 25-19 victory in the third set and a straight-set win over the Dragons.
The next test for the Greyhounds will be a sectional final tournament game at home on Thursday, Oct. 22 at 6 p.m. Johnson said as long as her team fixes their passing issues, all will go well.
“I think we’re ready,” Johnson said. “We just need to fix our passing and that’s about it. We just got to remember to get down, talk and watch the ball into our arms to correct simple mistakes.”
Reach Charles Grove at 937-544-2391 or firstname.lastname@example.org.