Gallery by Heather Belcher
Woodrow Wilson head volleyball coach Bre Rhodes said that since she moved Alanna Penn to the outside, she has flourished in the latter part of the season.
Thursday night in a tri-match sweep of Parkersburg and Greenbrier East, Penn was a difference maker for the Flying Eagles.
In the four sets that she played, the sophomore outside hitter had 20 kills including eight in the final set against the Spartans.
“She played really well in both matches,” Rhodes said. “Alanna was definitely a go-to player in both matches tonight. Since we moved her to the outside and she got her timing down, she has really come alive and been playing well. Her and Salia (Harris) both do really well.”
Harris recorded 14 kills over four sets, including eight against the Big Reds.
The Flying Eagles and the Spartans met in the much anticipated nightcap with Woodrow winning the match, 25-20 and 25-21, but both sets were tight battles.
After eight ties in the opening tilt, the Flying Eagles ran off seven straight points which included three put-aways from junior Saira Diehl along with an incredible dig from Abby Dillon to keep the run alive.
“Abby is solid along the front row, but she really helps us defensively too,” Rhodes said.
In what was a trend in every match Thursday night, East rallied to tie the set at 18-apiece sparked by two kills from Alexis Stack who had four in the set.
However, Woodrow responded with a 5-0 burst and sealed the win on the third kill of the set from ZaMahya Moss.
The Flying Eagles then kept the heat on in set two, jumping out to a 5-0 lead which included three kills from Penn.
Although it never trailed in the final set, Woodrow Wilson did have some anxious moments when East moved within one point of the lead at 18-17.
A kill from both Harris and Moss, along with an ace from Skylar Jeffrey pushed the lead back to four in the 25-21 win.
“We had a lot of young mistakes tonight. Most of it was our transition work,” Greenbrier East head coach Matt Sauvage said. “When we were in position, our execution was good and it showed in runs at times, but we are getting caught out of position too much tonight.”
In the first match of the evening, Woodrow also had some up and down moments in a 27-25, 26-24 win over the Big Reds.
The Flying Eagles ran out to a quick 7-0 lead, only to see Parkersburg come storming back to take a 15-13 advantage. Woodrow then turned the tables going on a 9-3 run and looked to have the set in control.
Looks were deceiving.
Trailing 23-20, the Big Reds fought back for a 23-23 tie before the teams traded points to make it a 25-25 nail-biter. A kill from Penn and an attacking error from Parkersburg gave the home team the win.
“That is how it has been all around the state this year. It’s like a roller coaster ride with team playing up and down,” Rhodes said. “We needed the wins tonight and they kept pushing for it and we got them. So I was glad about that.”
The second set was another roller coaster ride with both team making big runs.
Parkersburg seemed to have the match in its grasp when it erased a 20-18 deficit with a 6-1 run that put them one point away from a win.
A kill and two blocks from Moss keyed a 5-0 burst to stun the Big Reds.
Parkersburg took the match with Greenbrier East 2-1. The Big Reds won the opener 25-19, before the Spartans answered with 25-16 win in set two.
East led set three 15-13, only to see Parkersburg score five unanswered points and never trail the rest of the way in a 25-21 win.
“I was really impressed with how we played tonight. We were missing one of our starters. One of our middles is home sick and I honestly didn’t expect this. We threw a line-up together yesterday in practice because I knew she wasn’t going to be here today,” Parkersburg head coach Erin Thorpe said. “I thought we played really well, but we just killed ourselves with our own errors. We make some stupid decisions and throw the ball out of bounds a lot. We just have to focus on calming ourselves down and playing smart the whole time.”
While Sauvage gave credit to East’s opponents Thursday, he also saw some uncharacteristic things from his team in the setbacks.
“It’s nothing against Parkersburg or Woodrow, they played really good, but we didn’t execute. We got caught standing up a little bit and we weren’t in position,” Sauvage said. “When we did what we were supposed to do tonight, we were winning 67 percent of the points. If you know that, then mentally you know that you can win these games. Not just make it a tight game, but you can win these games. I truly believe if we can execute on our end, we can make a deep run.”