With the score tied deep in the fourth set, everybody in the gym knew exactly where the Wilton volleyball team would go with the ball.
However, West Liberty still had no answer.
Wilton senior Aubrey Putman had two kills in the final four points, including one to set up a match point for the Beavers on the road. With the Comet crowd in a frenzy, freshman Macy Daufeldt’s kill attempt sailed long on match point, and the Beavers escaped West Liberty with a four-set win, 24-26, 25-21, 25-17, 26-14.
“We knew this was going to be a tough match and a tough environment,” Wilton coach Brenda Grunder said. “I’m really proud of the kids. We wanted to come up and face this challenge and I couldn’t be happier right now.
Grunder said her team was in an ideal spot entering Tuesday’s match, as the Beavers were 14-0 and hadn’t dropped a set all season.
That changed quickly in West Liberty, as the Class 3A No. 7 Comets jumped out to a 5-1 lead, and the Beavers had no answer for Daufeldt at the net in West Liberty’s 26-24 first set win.
However, Wilton wasn't rattled.
“I didn’t even address it,” Grunder said on losing their first set of the season. “They (team) didn’t even mention it. We just came back and I was happy with the way they came back and played.”
After a back-and-forth start to the second set, Wilton (15-0) finally found some breathing room midway through, opening up a 17-14 lead. The Beavers extended their lead to 22-17.
However, the Comets (10-2) came roaring back and won the next three points. Still, with the home crowd behind West Liberty, Wilton won three of the final four points to close out the set.
“Emily Lange had a great night,” Grunder said of her senior. “I think she’s really learned a lot. In the past, she would just go for the big swing. Now, she’s seeing the floor better than ever and mixing up her shots. There in that one series (second set) she just dominated the net.”
The Beavers never relinquished that momentum.
“I think we lost our focus,” West Liberty coach Ruben Galvan said. “We weren’t being aggressive as we were in the first match. Wilton took advantage of that and slowly shifted the momentum and we never regained it.”
The Beavers never trailed in the third set and opened up a 9-2 lead in the blink of an eye. The carried extended that lead to as big as 18-9, and went on to win the set handily, 25-17.
Neither team led by more than four points in the fourth set, as West Liberty’s Halle Mueller and Daufeldt exchanged blows with Wilton’s Putman, Lange and Kortney Drake. Even though Grunder felt the Beaver’s fundamentals left them at times, they had enough to close out a tight fourth set, 26-24, and leave West Liberty with a win.
‘We knew coming into this game it was going to be tough,” Galvan said. “Our kids fought hard, we just had some unforced errors we couldn’t overcome.”
For Wilton, the Beavers look dangerous as ever with a class of talented freshmen to go along with their senior class of Lange, Drake, Putman, Becca Ball and Eleney Owens. Monday was the biggest environment freshmen Kelsey Drake, Mallory Lange, Ella Caffery and Alexa Garvin have played in during their brief careers, and they passed the test with flying colors.
“They’re tough,” Grunder said of her freshmen. “They want to be volleyball smart, be aggressive and get better,” Grunder said. “They want to be a part of this, they want to be successful.”