BISMARCK — Every coach wants its team to peak at just the right time. Ideally, that time is toward the end of the season when the postseason tournaments begin.
According to Westville volleyball coaches Anne Picklesimer and Kelli Howard, the Tigers still haven’t peaked. But that doesn't mean they aren't playing well. In fact, Monday’s first-round Bismarck-Henning regional match against the Georgetown-Ridge Farm Buffaloes might have been the most complete match they have played so for this season.
They defeated the Buffaloes in straight sets, 25-22, 25-14, and now have the confidence they need to take on second seed Bismarck-Henning in tonight’s 6:30 p.m. semifinal.
“We have the motivation, and we’re actually having the confidence today,” Westville senior Mikayla Rolinitis said. “We know we’re a good team, and we have the confidence.”
That confidence shouldn't be confused with arrogance, but rather taken as a renewed sense of the team’s potential.
That didn't come, according to the Tigers, until the Vermilion County Tournament.
“We kind of woke up at the beginning of the tournament,” Rolinitis said. “This whole season, we really haven’t had the confidence at all. Westville’s kind of had the name that girls sports just don’t have it. We’re wanting to change that now.”
Picklesimer saw a team on Monday capable of doing that, and the team she had anticipated seeing the entire season.
The Buffaloes challenged the third-seeded Tigers in the first set going toe-to-toe with them and even tying the set at 11-11. That’s when the Tigers (10-16) resumed control and separated themselves just enough to secure the win.
Westville then carried all of the momentum from the win into the second set and jumped out to a 6-0 lead.
“Today they were all over,” Picklesimer said. “They were communicating with one another. They weren't second-guessing themselves. They had the confidence in themselves. They were going after everything.
“In previous matches, I would see the ball dropping with two or three of them looking around. This time, I didn't see any of that, and if it did drop, two or three of them were going after it. I’ve told them I would rather them play to win and see them blast it out or see two or three of them flop on the floor going for it than no one going for it at all.”
The change in mentality came rather quickly, and the results showed almost immediately. It was almost as if a switch had been flipped, and the Tigers started playing more aggressively and to their potential.
“Our communication,” Picklesimer said of the change. “And it’s kind of a mixture of some seniors are stepping up into that leadership role. Some of our juniors are (stepping up) and some of our sophomores. It’s really a team camaraderie. We’re starting to come together and mesh really well with one another.
“I think Mikayla has done a really nice job of stepping up and leading the team,” she added. “Lauren Barthalow has set a really good example of playing to win. It will be either a tight score or we’re up or they’re up by a point or two, and she just does not second-guess herself and she will just slam it. I think that sets the tone and the pace.”
Rolinitis and Lexie Suttle each had five digs, and Adrianne Pate and Mariah Rolinitis each had four. Mikayla Rolinitis and Barthalow had five kills each, and Alexa Kantout finished with four. Pate also finished with a match-high 10 assists.
Tonight’s semifinal match is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m., following the 5:30 p.m. semifinal match between top-seeded Salt Fork and Oakwood.