The Wildcats stood tall when it mattered most however in terms of winning the big points at the key times.
No one stood taller for the winners either than standout middle blocker Whitney Hobbs. The talented 6-3 junior slammed down 13 kills, including several key ones late in games to rally her team to victory.
The composed Wildcats delivered clutch play late in the final two games to post a thrilling 3-1 victory over the host Cougars.
The Wildcats, who were missing a pair of starters due to injuries, prevailed 15-25, 25-22, 26-24, 25-22 in the marathon match.
Whitko erased deficits of 13-6 and 20-17 in game three to rally for the pivotal win. The Wildcats then trailed 20-16 in the final game before rallying behind the serving of sophomores Elaine Warner and Maddie Gawthrop. Gawthrop came up huge late behind the service line with a pair of back-to-back aces to break a 22-22 deadlock as the Wildcats prevailed.
“We’ve definitely never been a finishing team and it was awesome to see them finish like they did tonight in games three and four,” said second-year Whitko coach Brandy Smith. “No one got down and they stayed together as a team the entire time. Our composure was there until the end. They played one point at a time.
“We struggled early passing the ball, but as the match went along it got better and that really helped us. I saw a lot of improvement there tonight and I was really happy with that.”
Whitney Hobbs, Whitko’s 6-3 tower of power in the middle, led the way. She finished with a match-high 13 kills, including a clutch pair late in game three as the Wildcats rallied from a 20-17 deficit to take a 2-1 lead and seize the momentum.
“Her intensity came out tonight when it mattered most,” said Smith of Hobbs. “She’s a big momentum changer for us. I have high expectations for her this season.”LCA, which had outlasted Jimtown 3-2 in its season opener at home Monday night, just could not finish the deal Tuesday evening. The Cougars came out hot in game one as standout sophomore Paige Price quickly staked her team to a 6-0 lead with six straight service points, including three aces. LCA controlled game one the entire way. The second game was tied at 22-22 before a big block by Whitney Hobbs, a service ace by junior Dana Hobbs off the net and a kill by Whitney Hobbs gave Whitko the 25-22 win to even the match.
“I thought we were tired, not physically, but mental fatigue tonight,” said LCA coach Glenn Goldsmith. “I thought we lost this match. We kept them in it and just couldn’t make that push we needed at the end. The little things hurt us and when our defense stopped, our game stopped. We lose those last three games by a total of eight points.
“I like how Kathleen Sands played in the middle for us. She was in there blocking their big girl (Whitney Hobbs). But the difference was when she went out they just pounded the middle. Hobbs was great for them in the middle.
“The good thing is that we’re still 1-1 and the girls are disappointed they lost. Hopefully, that makes them bring energy to practice to want to improve and play better Friday night at Elkhart Christian. I think they will.”Whitko, who defeated LCA last year in a 5-23 season, played without starting outside hitters Delaney Ray and Hannah Cokl. Sophomore Ray is out with a broken nose and Cokl is sidelined with a thumb injury. Smith hopes both of them can return to action next week. The Wildcats had four starters playing their first-ever varsity match.
Sophomore Elaine Warner had seven kills and junior Taylor Zwick five for Whitko. Gawthrop had four aces and Aressa Tackwell three and 16 digs. Junior Jenny Brown had 24 digs.Frani Gerst, one of eight seniors for LCA, turned in a strong performance for the hosts. Gerst led her team with 12 kills and also blasted six aces. Price had 18 assists and six aces and Sands had six blocks.
Whitko rallied to win the JV contest 18-25, 25-22, 15-13.
LCA (1-1) plays at Elkhart Christian Friday night. Whitko (1-0) travels to Churubusco Aug. 21.