MADISON TOWNSHIP — Lexington needed this in the worst way.
Saddled with high expectations after a solid 2011 and a stellar summer, Lady Lex scuffled at the start of the volleyball season.
“Our kids have struggled with chemistry issues and buying in that we need each other to win. We’re struggling to find a leader to step forward and have that competitive edge,” Lexington coach Bobbi Weaver assessed. “We have all the tools. The only one that stops us is ourselves.”
While those issues still reared up Thursday night at Madison, Lexington found a way to get over it, earning a grueling five-gamer in the Ohio Cardinal Conference 21-25, 25-17, 25-22, 14-25, 15-13.
“We needed this so bad,” Weaver continued. “You fight every day. You play in practice. You work and put them in situations so that when they get to Game 5, they can finish. We haven’t finished. We didn’t against Orrville, and we didn’t against West Holmes, but tonight we finally finished.”
Lady Lex lost 15-9 at West Holmes and 15-11 against Orrville, two of the favorites in the OCC. It looked like they would be 0-for-3 in fifth games when Madison held a 13-11 lead.
A pair of stuff blocks by Lady Lex junior middle blocker Alex Fitzpatrick and a kill by freshman outside hitter/setter Mackenzie Weaver gave them the lead. Senior setter Erin Yaussy closed it with an ace.
“It was a team win. Those kids fought tonight, and we needed to see that because I haven’t seen that fight all year,” Coach Weaver said. “We found that fight.”
The play was still uneven. Lady Lex wasn’t sharp at the start. Then after taking a 2-1 lead, they were blown out in the fourth game when struggling in all facets.
“We made our stand and said we’re here for business,” Lexington senior leftside hitter Jenni Payne said of the fifth game. “We have to remember the other team is the enemy. We all make mistakes and no one makes a mistake on purpose, so we have to keep that mind frame and really push on that.
“We are going to build on this.”
Lexington (4-4, 2-2 OCC) got 14 kills from Payne and 13 from Weaver, while junior outside hitter Hayley Slaton had nine kills and sophomore middle blocker Alannah Lemming had eight. Lemming and Fitzpatrick each had four stuff blocks, while Weaver had three and Payne two. The team also combined for nine aces with Yaussy getting three.
“This is a big confidence boost,” Payne said of the road win over the four-time defending OCC champs. “We needed this really, really, really bad.”
As for the Rams (6-2, 2-2 OCC), it’s one to grow on.
“We played really well. These are young kids giving everything they have and I can’t complain. We’re just making crucial mistakes,” Madison first-year head coach Ken Brubaker said.
In one game, Madison committed nine service errors.
“I’m not going to use the excuse of youth and immaturity. We’ve been through the battles. We started the season 6-0. We won a huge tournament at Cloverleaf, beating Hudson, which is an excellent program,” Brubaker said.
The team’s lone senior, Lauren Helbig, was big in the middle and on the outside, especially late in the match. She ended with 14 kills and four stuff blocks with an ace. Sophomore outside hitter and setter Katie Wagner also had 14 kills, while sophomores Mekaila Grose, Ali Brown and Ryenn Kitts each had five kills with Grose coming up with three stuff blocks. Junior setter Haley Wiley served three aces.
“Sometimes volleyball is a game of mistakes, and if you learn from them, you play better down the road. We’re not at our peak yet. I think we’re going to peak when the time is right. I really do,” Brubaker said.
As for Lexington, Weaver hopes her team learns something from the victory in a tough venue.
“The back of our shirts say, ‘Tradition starts today,’ but it’s got to be every day. You can’t turn it on like hot water,” she said. “When you do, you lose. When you keep it on, you win.”