With every win, Westlake racks up the Chaps confidence climbs another notch.
The Chaparrals (16-18, 5-0) easily swept visiting Del Valle Tuesday night to maintain its stay atop the District 15-5A standings with its fifth-straight district ‘W’, getting a chance to blend different combinations together as the team’s depth continues to solidify.
Amelia Mouw had seven kills, three aces, five digs and a block in the 25-9, 25-5, 25-13 victory and Madison Borowski adding a team-high 15 assists with basically the entire roster pitching in.
Kinsey Leavitt added 14 assists, six digs and two aces, with Jessie Turner adding seven kills.
“I felt we played well tonight. We were dominant from the beginning and played confident, a good match all-around,” Mouw said. “We won our first (district) match, and our confidence has just slowly built up more and more as we’ve won.”
Concentrating on coming out attacking, Westlake was ever-so-slightly off serving to start the first game but quickly rallied and cruised to wins in the first two games. In the third game, Del Valle hung with the Chaps and tied the score at 8-8 before Westlake rallied to go up 14-8 en route to the match-clinching win as some of the starters got a breather at the end.
“We definitely have a couple of really strong players like Grace (Weghorst), who is amazing, but I think a lot of girls are really good, and we all work really hard in practice,” Turner said. “I think you can put anyone on the court, and they’ll do what they need to do.”
To start the year, there was a lot of unfamiliarity within the team, but as the weeks have past Westlake has grown into a cohesive unit. It showed against Del Valle, with Westlake’s passing on point with the Chaps’ hitters.
“We’ve really jelled together, and we’re really good friends on the court and off,” Borowski said. “We didn’t really know each other at first. Now I feel like we have good connection, and when we do, we hit the ball really hard and get kills a lot.”
Turner, a sophomore, credits the older players with bringing everyone together.
“The seniors have been really nice, especially being an underclassman; they’ve been really accepting and make us feel included and a part of the team,” she said. “I think it makes us play better together because we’re more comfortable with each other. It makes us more invested. We want to play for the team and everyone else rather than just for ourselves.”
Mouw agreed that the team has found common bonds lacking in August.
“I think it was a matter of meshing together better as a team,” she said. “At first, a lot of us hadn’t played together. There were a lot of new people on the team, so it was just a matter of getting to know each other better.”
Coach Al Bennett has used double-digit players frequently during a match, and the intensity in practice has ratcheted up with the start of district play and with the wins piling up.
“These guys bust their butts every day at practice and don’t always get a chance to get on the floor, so that was nice for them to get out and do some stuff,” he said. “Last year, we didn’t have quite that depth because of injuries, but the year before, we had that depth. This year, we’re pretty deep. Most times, we’re playing eight to 10 kids per match, even per game.”
Rambunctious after points won, the bench has been extremely vocal as everyone is relishing the contributions from all over, and Bennett aims to keep that going even if the Chaps take a district loss soon.
“When you’re on a winning streak then, yes, everyone’s OK with it. When you’re not…,” Bennett said, tailing off.
Still, there are things being sorted out as Westlake keeps the winning streak going.
“You have to try to search and try to find something but you don’t always want to be jerking people out because then you don’t get any continuity or fluidity,” said Bennett of in-game lineup changes. “Sometimes, you just got to let them play and, one way or the other they’re either going to be terrible or will play out of it.
“In the long run, I think we’re much better for it, and I’ll be quicker with the trigger because there’s more of accountability, and we know who is going to play through it and who is not going to play through it.”
Molly Smith added nine assists for Westlake in the win, Corinne Grandcolas had six kills and Weghorst added five kills.
Meagan Mellenbruch had five digs, while Michelle Irvin and Turner tallied three digs each and McKenzie Fell added three blocks.
Westlake will host Bowie at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
“We still have to work hard. We’re not too cocky. We just want to pull out wins in district,” Borowski said. “I think we can make a lot of improvement. We’re really good right now but there’s a lot we could do because we’re really talented.”