WESTON, Mo. — West Platte built up a commanding lead in the third set, making a KCI Conference win seem all but inevitable.
Instead, the Bluejays nearly let a 10-point advantage slip away before holding on for a dramatic 25-15, 18-25, 25-23 victory Thursday, Sept. 1 at West Platte Elementary. East Buchanan’s return error on the second match point sealed the win in a rematch of two teams that split a two-set match the previous weekend in pool play of the KCI Tournament.
West Platte led 22-12 in the third set after senior Jordan Schultz’s ninth and final ace before a 10-1 run put the win in jeopardy.
“Tonight, what I saw was an improvement,” West Platte coach Amber Guthrie said. “We did not lay down and let them have it. I think a lot of our players stepped up, and when we were on tonight, everybody was contributing. They finished, and it was a good win for us.”
East Buchanan took a 3-0 lead in the third set after pulling away to win the second moments earlier.
After ties at 3 and 4, West Platte went ahead for good with a Schultz ace and one of four kills for senior Nealie Niemeier — part of a quick three-point burst. The lead slowly expanded from there with the Bulldogs taking a timeout down 19-11 trying to stop the momentum.
During the 10-1 run, Guthrie took two timeouts to try and regroup West Platte’s players.
Following the second, East Buchanan scored two straight to close within 23-22. Niemeier buried her final kill to stop the rally and set up the first of two match points needed for the Bluejays to end the unexpected drama.
“We had some nerves going, but we just had to keep our focus and push to the end,” West Platte senior setter Megan Kottman said.
Playing in the elementary gym while work on the flooring of the main gym finishes, fans packed the one set of bleachers for the matchup.
West Platte came out with noticeable energy after having won its pool at the KCI Tournament but finishing fourth, while East Buchanan advanced to the championship match and ended up second. Faith Stevens recorded a block for the Bluejays on the opening point, and they scored the first four with Schultz posting one of her two kills, Kottman serving up the first of her six aces and adding a kill on set tip to beat the East Buchanan defense, prompting the match’s first timeout from Bulldogs coach Ryan Horn.
Another 5-0 run boosted West Platte’s advantage to 12-4, and the Bluejays finished with 11 unanswered points after briefly falling behind. Kottman served three aces during the run, while Stevens’ lone kill led to set point.
East Buchanan made an error returning a Stevens tip to drop the opening set.
“After that first set, it was awesome having that big win and momentum, but I knew (East Buchanan) was going to fight back,” Guthrie said.
East Buchanan then jumped to a 4-1 lead in the second set before Schultz’s serving, including two more aces, briefly gave West Platte the advantage at 5-4. She added three more late to close the gap 22-17, but the Bulldogs pulled away to force the deciding set.
West Platte’s service game ended up being too much. The Bluejays finished with 22 aces, including four for Stevens.
With Schultz having an off day at the net, Ciara Davies posted a team-high seven kills to lead West Platte’s offense. Kottman ended up with just nine assists, the Bluejays failing to consistently create quality offensive chances off of serve-receive.
“We struggled at times tonight,” Guthrie said. “We have some good hitters, and we need to be able to get the ball to those hitters to get the momentum we had at times tonight.”
West Platte improved to 5-3-1 overall while winning a second straight KCI match in three sets. The Bluejays were scheduled to play again Tuesday, Sept. 6 against Kansas City Christian, but the result was not available at The Citizen’s deadline.
North Platte 2, St. Joseph Christian 0
The Panthers earned their first win of the season Thursday, Sept. 1 in St. Joseph, Mo., improving to 1-6 entering a Tuesday, Sept. 6 matchup at Lone Jack. The result was not available at The Citizen’s deadline.
With a youthful and inexperienced squad, North Platte got a much-needed 25-13, 25-18 win behind six kills for Kelsey Reynolds. Lauren Payne, a senior and the only player for the Panthers with varsity experience prior to this season, dished out 10 assists.
Payne, Reynolds and Katie Sanders led the defense with three digs apiece.