Nickel leads Lady Trojans to a 3-0 1st round victory
The seventh-seeded Weston girls volleyball team started off the Class M state championship playoffs with a hard fought 3-1 (25-12, 24-26, 25-19, 25-17) home win over the 26th-seeded Waterford Lady Lancers. Weston raised its record to 16-3. Waterford finished the season at 8-11.
Lady Trojans coach Jamie Charles said, "You don't know what to expect in a game like this" having never played Waterford before.
Game 1 started slowly for both teams as each tried to find their rhythm. Weston pulled ahead 8-6 on the strong serving of sophomore Lili Clement (10 kills) and freshman Hannah Ashmore (nine service points, two kills). Weston kept inching up in score, while Waterford couldn't seem to penetrate the Lady Trojan defense for more than one side-out at a time. At 15-9, the Lady Lancers called a time out to regroup which only seemed to help Weston as they shot ahead to 21-11 and then 23-12.
Throughout the contest, senior captain setter Brittany Swanson (31 assists, seven digs) got it to her hitters.
The Lady Trojans closed out the first game 25-12 and looked like they were in for an easy time of it.
Waterford came out strong in Game 2 with a whole new enthusiasm and drive. There were many ties and despite the powerful hits from senior captain Anja Nickel (13 kills, six digs) and junior Haylee Winikoff (five service points, six digs) the Lady Lancers stayed in each point. A spike by Nickel tied the game at 14 but Weston tied it again at 18. Neither team was able to pull ahead until Weston ran up three quick points to lead 21-18. The Lady Trojan front line had block after block and kept the Lady Lancers' junior Jessica Ryder, under wraps. After a Waterford time out, Nickel spike moved Weston to 24-20 and Weston appeared to be on the verge of closing out Game 2. But Waterford was relentless and came back with six straight points to close out the game, 26-24.
Chastened by the loss, Weston picked up its game and jumped out to a 7-4 lead in Game 3. The combination of Swanson setting up Nickel carried the offense.
Swanson said, "Anja and I have played together for four years and just know where the other is at all times."
Point after point was earned by Nickel's smashes that the Lady Lancers couldn't handle. A Nickel service ace made it 16-7 and was followed by a Clement kill to make it 17-8. Waterford made a strong comeback to 17-15 which caused Charles to call a time out. Behind the great serving of Ashmore, the Lady Trojans moved their lead to 23-19 and a Nickel block made it game point, 24-19. Seconds later, Waterford hit it into the net to give the game to Weston, 25-19.
On the first point of Game four, Clement went down with a sprained ankle and had to leave the contest. Senior captain Julia Robinson (three kills, eight service points, three digs) replaced her and Weston led, 3-1. The game stayed close and was tied at nine and 11 before the Lady Trojans started to take control. Weston went up 14-12 and 16-12 on a Nickel touch shot, which forced Waterford to call another timeout.
The Lady Lancers didn't want to go home just yet, however, and kept the pressure on the Weston and closed it to 18-16. A set-hit combination from Swanson and Nickel gave the Lady Trojans a 21-16 lead. When scores were needed, Nickel delivered the kill.
Waterford called one more timeout at 23-16 but finally succumbed to the Lady Trojans, 25-17.
Junior Christina Welsh (five kills, 13 digs, 10 service points) had an all-around solid game.
Nickel said, "We tried to focus on our game in preparing to play them. We practiced our blocking and defense a lot."
Charles credited her players for playing "a very strong net game and a good all-around performance."
Weston hosted 10th-seeded Northwestern last night after press time in the second round of the Class M playoffs.