MUNSTER | In Niyah Hall's previous three years playing volleyball for West Side, she and her Cougars teammates never got a chance to taste what it was like to advance past the opening round of the girls volleyball sectional.
On Thursday, Hall's efforts were exactly what the Cougars needed to taste that success.
The senior outside/middle hitter led the Cougars with 11 kills, displaying clutch play all along as West Side defeated E.C. Central 25-15, 23-25, 25-11, 25-23 in an opening round match of the Class 4A Munster Sectional. The Cougars avenged a recent regular season loss to the Cardinals in five sets.
“It feels great because we've worked hard to get here,” Hall said. “Just to get out of that first round, it feels awesome. We'll try to celebrate this win.”
The Cougars were missing their head coach, Alexandria Bradley, who was attending a mandatory meeting for her other job. Junior varsity coach Carolyn Sweetzer filled in, and was pleased with Hall's effort and the team's effort overall.
“She's a captain and a leader,” Sweetzer said. “She stepped up and became an all-around player (this year). She was able to attack, she was able to hit. She stepped up for me. She knows the game. She's been around it for a long time.”
Hall played a big part in every set, including the narrow loss in the second set. The Cougars were down by as many as 19-8 at one point and rallied before falling just short.
“I've got to pick up the slack,” Hall said. “Being a captain of the team, I try to keep people motivated, because it's not over until that last point.”
“That was heart, because our motto is not to give up and keep pushing,” Sweetzer added. “We were coming out here with a win (in our heads) today.”
West Side advances to play Highland in one semifinal at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. The Trojans defeated the Red Devils 25-21, 25-20, 21-25, 25-10 in Thursday's nightcap.
“The game we lost, our middles got taken out of the game,” Highland coach Matt Clark said. “When we're running our middles well, our outsides benefit and we've got girls who can put the ball away when the opportunity is there. I'm proud of them, they played their butts off.”
Morgan Lenhart led the Trojans with 14 kills, while Brittany Fowler had 33 assists.