YORKTOWN – As Wapahani coach Jared Richardson said after his Raiders became the latest squad flustered by undersized Yorktown, bigger doesn’t always beat quicker.
In this battle of top-ranked teams, “quicker” was much better than “bigger.”
Yorktown, the No. 1 team in Class 3A, had no trouble dispatching Wapahani, the No. 1 team in 2A, on Tuesday night, rolling to a 25-13, 25-17, 25-14 victory. Rhyen Neal (12 kills, seven digs), Kenzie Knuckles (nine kills, 14 digs) and Darian Jackson (seven kills) led the attack for the Tigers, who are now 9-0 and have yet to drop a set.
Even though Wapahani (6-1) was without outside hitter Skyler VanNote for the last two sets after the sophomore star sprained her ankle, Yorktown was clearly the superior team on this night. So the question was, could the Tigers have played any better?
The answer was a resounding “yes.”
“We kind of lost focus for a while,” Neal said. “We could have been more aggressive defensively and picked up more balls, but offensively, I felt like we played one of our better matches.
Added Yorktown coach Stephanie Bloom: “I’m not sure we’ve played a team yet that has dug us as much (as Wapahani did). When Kenzie hits, she’s used to the ball hitting the ground, and that didn’t happen every time tonight. I think that put us on our heels on defense a little and we weren’t ready to make a play.”
That’s the Tigers, who are trying to “hold ourselves to a higher standard,” according to Jackson. The standard Yorktown set Tuesday was pretty high as the latest it trailed in any set was at 3-2 in the third set.
Wapahani, in all fairness, had trouble recovering when VanNote landed on a teammate with Yorktown leading 13-10 in the first set. She tried to play through it, but sat the final two sets. Richardson estimated VanNote would be out several weeks as she left the locker room on crutches.
“I just think with the young kids, we lost focus,” Richardson said. “When you see your star player go down, you have to stay committed to the game, and I don’t think we did.”
The Tigers seem to attack teams from all angles as setter Mimi Arrington also made sure to keep middles Kendall Murr and Olivia Reed involved in addition to Neal, Knuckles and Jackson. Arrington had five kills herself in addition to 37 assists.
“She’s a really smart setter,” Jackson said. “She balances it all out so the other team doesn’t know where we’re going. Since we don’t have a very tall offense, it’s better to get it to everyone equally.”
Contact sports features writer Ryan O’Gara at (765) 213-5829. Follow him on Twitter @RyanOGaraTSP.