Some volleyball teams rely on aggressive hitters and strong servers to lead them to victory, but West Springfield High School rallies around libero Alyssa Hager's solid defensive play.
In the Spartans' 3-1 victory against Hayfield Secondary School on Tuesday, Sept. 8, Hager played a critical role in the win by capitalizing on mistakes and keeping the Spartans in scoring position.
"I try to be consistent for my team," the senior said. "We had great team defense and Sammy Hogue was able to get strong sets for us."
Hager finished the night with five digs, six kills and once ace. Her play was particularly strong during crucial moments that could have shifted momentum to Hayfield.
For example, Hager’s diving save allowed junior Lauren Scolese to score a point and extend the Spartans' lead in game two.
"The hitters did a great job of making use of our sets and saves," Hager said. "We've been working on playing as a team and it showed [tonight]."
Head Coach Stephanie Noriega said that Hager doesn't just provide a strong backbone for the defense, but also serves as a leader on the court.
"Alyssa is just great," Noriega said. "She's our defensive captain and she runs the floor when she's out there. I know I can depend on her and that I can just let her go and she'll run the defense. She's a key part of this team and pulling out wins."
The Spartans opened the match with 25-16 and 25-21 victories to put the match on the brink, but dropped the third game 25-23.
Hager's strong defense and command on the court helped the Spartans regain control and finish the Hawks in the fourth game 25-18.
"The thought of losing the match just never entered our minds," Hager said. "We just told each other to get back to basics and finish [the game] strong."
Senior outside hitter Kate Newmeyer said that the team refocused on playing as a team before the fourth game.
"I think we showed a lot of strength for us to come back," Newmeyer said. "Losing just wasn't an option [for us]."
The team's improved communication also was a factor in the victory, Noriega said.
"Sometimes our communication breaks down," she said. "But when we have it, we can beat anybody."
Although the Spartans earned the victory and improved to a 2-1 record, Noriega said more improvement is needed to continue their winning ways.
"We just need to work on passing the ball and not being afraid to hit the floor [for digs]," she said. "I'm proud of the girls, but there were things I saw that we just need to work on."