Westminster Christian junior middle hitter Savannah Dutcher might be the most improved volleyball player in the area this season, and when teamed with returning right side Claire Speweik it presents a formidable front line.
Harvest Christian, however, has something new of its own in complete team balance, and the Lions used it to complement Grand Valley State-bound hitter Sydney Doby Thursday to win at Westminster 25-14, 25-18 in Northeastern Athletic play.
“It’s a team effort this year — you’re only as strong as your weakest player, weakest hitter,” Harvest Christian coach Kim Floyd said. “So we’re working a lot on team play.”
Doby finished with 11 kills and four digs to lead the Lions, but sophomore right side Ellie Burzlaff came up with eight kills, freshman middle Mikayla Robinson five and senior outside Chloe Corbett four. The numbers didn’t reflect the numerous times Corbett, Burzlaff or Robinson returned fire without getting a kill, but still took pressure off Doby.
“A lot of girls were worried coming in saying, ‘oh, we lost so many seniors,’ “ Doby recalled. “But I looked at it and thought we have a lot better of a team this year — not saying last year’s wasn’t strong or anything. But our passers have come so far along since my junior year.
“Even though we have a lot of young players, like in the middle (Robinson) our whole team has rounded out well.”
The Lions also got 24 assists from junior setter Jade Martinez and four digs from Shayna Manusos.
Westminster (7-2-3, 2-1) fell behind immediately in the first set, and, after trailing 10-3 on Corbett’s ace, never got closer than five again. Doby put down three straight kills for a 22-14 lead, and Corbett’s kill finished a six-point run to end the first set.
In the second set, Dutcher continued making her presence felt. The 6-foot-2 middle had 10 kills on the night. The Warriors led for the last time, 7-6 after consecutive aces from Lindsey Vanden Bos.
“Savannah has been playing club the last few years and has really stepped up her hitting game,” Westminster coach Kathy Ramos said. “We changed our setters up a little so our sets are better to her and she’s been able to get a lot of kills and hits.”
Gradually, Harvest Christian took control as Doby had three kills in an 8-2 run to a 13-9 lead. The Lions led 18-15 after Speweik’s ace for Westminster, but then a 5-0 run put the Lions in command. Doby, Corbett and Robinson each had kills in the run.
Speweik had three kills and Emma Kovachevich had eight assists for the Warriors on the night.
“Really, we didn’t adjust to their hitting game,” Ramos said, pointing to Doby in particular. “I feel like this was an experience game against them to see what we need to fix that’s fixable, and we’ll come out stronger next time.”