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Marisa Ochoa (#8) attempts a kill down the line Oct. 9 against Westlake.

By Kyle Gregory

Contributing Writer

One of the most anticipated volleyball matches in District 15-5A proved to be as wild as advertised Oct. 9 when Lake Travis fell to visiting rivals Westlake, 17-25, 27-25, 19-25, 30-28, 14-16, in a game that featured several furious comebacks and three down-to-the-wire finishes.

“We started off slow, but our response was great,” Lake Travis coach Jennifer Kazmierski said. “We got behind and found ways to fight back and score. I felt like we were in the fight every ball. It really and truly could have gone either way. I wish it had gone our way, but we got better in that match, and that’s all you can ask for.”

It was a pitched battle from the beginning, with five service changes in the first game before either team was able to score consecutive points. The Lady Cavs (17-18, 7-2) took an early 12-8 lead with help from stellar defensive play by Marisa Ochoa and Hayley Mahlum, but the Lady Chaps (19-19, 8-0) quickly closed the gap behind the powerful arm of Grace Weghorst and assumed a 14-15 lead. From that point, Lake Travis was playing catch up, and the Cavaliers had difficulty getting the ball over Westlake’s towering front line. Westlake took advantage of the Cavs’ offensive struggles and dominated the final few minutes of the game.

Both teams made a statement early on in the second match. With the score at 2-3, the two sides competed in a rally that saw nearly every player on the court come up with a stunning dig, shot or block. The point was only decided after a Lake Travis player grazed the net with her hand, which discouraged neither team, as the referee tried to blow the play dead while the Cavs and the Chaps continued to bat the ball with decisiveness.

That fighting spirit carried throughout the remainder of the game. After Lake Travis pulled ahead 7-6, Westlake managed to keep within three points until the end of the match, when Lake Travis went up 24-19. The Chaps kept fighting; however, and soon the game was tied at 24. Lake Travis’ Olivia Thorpe and Westlake’s Corinne Grandcolas traded big hits as the game went to extra sets, where, ultimately Lake Travis prevailed after Westlake sailed a hit out of bounds.

“I think we really did well in our offense; our outside hitters worked around their block,” Kaitland Currier said. “Our defense was phenomenal as well. We worked on our block, and we picked up a lot of their tips that they tried to score on. We knew that would be our weakness, so we went for every single ball.”

After a tight early going, Westlake found their rhythm in the middle of the third game and cruised to a 12-21 lead over the Lady Cavs. But even down by nine points, Lake Travis still fought, with Claire McCown leading the charge. McCown scored on a kill and two blocks to make the score 17-22 and bring the Lake Travis home crowd to life. The surge wasn’t enough to overtake Westlake, but it foreshadowed the resolve that Lake Travis would show in the fourth and fifth games.

“The energy was just phenomenal,” Currier said. “Everyone was connecting so well. It was point after point that we fought. We had our ups and downs and our little mistakes, but we just kept on going. We knew that we had nothing to lose, and all we can do is put everything out there and give it our all.”

The penultimate game followed a familiar script. Both teams played close early, but then it appeared that Westlake’s blockers (anchored by 6′4″ Anna-Christine Parrish) would slow down the Lake Travis attack enough for the Chaps to build an insurmountable lead. At 14-19, Westlake was poised to do just that until the Lake Travis offense began scrapping back. Soon, it was tied at 22 and both teams were flying around the court. Drama abounded as neither team could take the two points needed to close out the game. Thorpe and Ochoa both sent balls careening off of Westlake players, while the squads’ front lines slammed down blocks to keep their respective teams alive. In fitting fashion, Lake Travis’ Corey Cable finally finished off the game with a slippery ace that narrowly edged past a diving Westlake defender.

“It’s going to be a battle; I told the girls that they’ve got to decide whether they want to do battle or lay over and die,” Kazmierski said. “They had to dig deep and find the fight, and they did.”

Westlake’s blockers asserted themselves at the start of the final game, registering three blocks as the Chaps jumped to a 1-6 lead – but it wasn’t enough to keep this from being another wild match. After a time out, Lake Travis settled down, and setters Cable and Currier were able to set up the Cavalier hitters for shots that thwarted Westlake’s blocks, and the game was tied at 9. Both squads battled hard, tying at 14 before a Lake Travis error gave Westlake the advantage. The final point of the match came down to a scrum at the net where Westlake ultimately prevailed in tipping the ball to the court for the win.

“That was a pure battle,” Ramirez said. “That was your textbook battle volleyball game. We both fought hard. We both had awesome plays. We both had down plays. We both had scrappy plays. In the end, we can’t hang our head over that loss. We both fought hard.”

Ochoa led the team in kills with 14 and digs with 22, she also contributed three blocks. Ramirez was second in kills with 11. McCown finished with nine kills and four blocks. In addition to her game-winning ace, Cable had 16 assists. Currier also had 16 assists. Defensively, Mahlum contributed 15 digs. Amanda Wolken and Audrey Scrafford both had three blocks.

Lake Travis hosts Akins Oct. 12 at 6:30 p.m.
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