City High had just scored the first point in the fourth set against West High when Kathy Bresnahan jumped from her seat and asked for a timeout.
West’s veteran coach then huddled with her players and challenged them to pick up the intensity, especially her seniors.
Her challenge was answered as West went on to win the fourth set by a convincing 25-13 margin. The Women of Troy then withstood several Little Hawk rallies in the fifth set to prevail 16-14 Tuesday at City, taking the annual Battle of the Spike 3-2.
“I really took them to task,” Bresnahan said. “We weren’t aggressive. We were letting City High set the tone and I just went after my seniors and said, ‘Show me some guts, show me some leadership. You haven’t shown us anything.’
“And they really took that to heart. We put it on their shoulders and we came out and started serving tougher. And I really did question their heart.”
The combination of senior leadership and the aggressive play from juniors Laynie Whitehead and Mikaela Morgan near the net helped ninth-ranked West overcome the upset bid by its cross-town rival.
“She was frustrated about the serving intensity,” said Whitehead, who led West with 16 kills and 25 assists. “She just knew that the first ball wasn’t as intense as she wanted it to be. She just said pick it up now.”
West improved to 18-6 overall and 5-1 in the Mississippi Valley Conference, while City fell to 12-8 and 3-3.
City coach Craig Pitcher praised his team’s effort despite the loss.
“We came out strong and we came out wanting to be aggressive,” Pitcher said of the Little Hawks, who won the first and third sets by scores of 25-21 and 26-24. “In the first set, I think we dictated a lot on our serve. And it seemed like the sets that we won our serve was a lot stronger.”
Pitcher said the match basically came down to one or two plays at the end.
“We kind of played a little bit not to lose,” he said. “And then we had a couple swings at the end where we said, ‘OK, we can get this done.’ We didn’t lose the match. West actually won the match tonight.”
West bolted to a 5-2 lead in the first set and also led 13-10 before the Little Hawks seized the momentum late in the set. With the score tied at 16, City scored five of the next six points en route to a 25-21 victory.
City never led by more than four points in the first set, while the Women of Troy never led by more than three points.
City jumped to a 5-2 lead in the second set on an ace serve by Nelson, but West answered by scoring six of the next seven points. The Women of Troy spent the rest of the second set building on their lead.
Pitcher called a timeout with his team trailing 22-14 in the second set. It had no effect, though, as West scored the next three points to win 25-14.
The Women of Troy were leading the third set 18-15 when Pitcher called another timeout. The Little Hawks responded this time by scoring the first two points after the timeout, narrowing the deficit to 18-17.
West appeared on the verge of winning the third set, leading 24-21, when the Little Hawks came storming back, scoring the final five points in the third set to prevail 26-24.
Senior Michaela Nelson led City with 22 kills and fellow senior Ruth Grace finished with a team-high 51 assists.