MAYVILLE - All season long, opposing coaches have said the Chautauqua Lake Lady Thunderbirds are one of the smartest teams in Class D.
On Wednesday, the No. 2 Lady Thunderbirds used their wits in defeating No. 7 Westfield in straight sets - 25-9, 25-16, 25-9 - in the first round of the Class D-1 volleyball playoffs.
"I think that we know when to hit and when to tip," Chautauqua Lake coach JoAnne Meadows said. "My kids do a nice job of mixing it up. It's a finesse game. It's not all power. Some times they will look for the holes in the court and tip it there. That scores us a lot of points. Sometimes, all teams do is hit, Teams don't know with us where we will put the ball and that's been a strength for us all year."
OBSERVER?Photo by Scott Reagle
A Chautauqua Lake player returns a shot during the Lady Thunderbirds’ Section 6 Class D-1 girls’ volleyball quarterfinal, on Wednesday, in Mayville.
In the opening game, Chautauqua Lake held a 5-1 lead when Westfield's top outside hitter Madison Mathews had to leave the game with an ankle injury. As Mathews was carted off on a stretcher, each member of the Lady Wolverines gave their teammate a hug and kiss goodbye.
"It was definitely an emotional moment," Westfield coach Greg Birner said. "That's the one thing I love about this team. They are a team. They play hard. They might not be the highest-skilled team, but definitely a team in the essence of the word and I love them for that."
Chautauqua Lake's Tara Hunt earned eight service points in the opening game, including the final three for the 25-9 win.
In the second game, Ashton Albanesius got the Lady Thunderbirds rolling as she served the home team to three straight points to open the game and then finished it off with a monsterous spike for the team's 24th point and promptly served an ace for game point.
"There have been times this year where she has really come through for us with some nice hits like that," Meadows said. "She is a 10th grader and it's her first year playing varsity. Going into the season, I wasn't sure if she was going to play JV or varsity. She played with us in the summer and did so well. She has improved all season."
Many times throughout the match, the Lady Wolverines showed promise of strong defensive play, but could not overcome Chautauqua Lake's attack.
"They played a nice, solid game," Birner said of Chautauqua Lake. "That's the thing about Chautauqua Lake, they aren't one of the hammering teams. They hit the ball well. They play defense correct, they don't make too many mistakes. You have to have offense and we didn't supply that today."
In the third game, the home team jumped out to a 10-3 lead and never looked back for the 25-9 victory.
"What I'm trying to work on is defense," Meadows said. "We spend so much time working on defense, but we are so strong offensively. Your defense really controls your offense. If we can start passing well, we have a really strong offense. Our focus is defense, but we have a really, really strong offense."
The Lady Thunderbirds will now host Portville today at 6 p.m. while Westfield ends its season and says goodbye to five seniors.
"Jamie Thompson and Jen LaPorte are the ones when I say this team had heart," Birner continued. "They led that. I will miss those two. I will miss Hillary Nelson in the middle and Mackenzie DeLand with her beautiful serves. They will be missed. I have some young blood coming up