WEST LAKE HILLS —
It’s not too early in the season for team-bonding activities as part of the Westlake volleyball program.
And the results on the court show it.
A day after Chaps seniors “kidnapped” the underclassmen on the team for breakfast Monday morning prior to practice, Westlake looked clinical at times Tuesday as it improved to 7-2 during a 25-23, 25-15, 25-22 home sweep over perennially strong New Braunfels Canyon.
“I think we’re gelling really well this year,” said senior right-side hitter Jada Birkel, one of four Chaps with at least nine kills. “We’re all friends and play club together, and that helps. And (Monday) was good for the team.”
While team chemistry doesn’t seem to be an issue for Westlake, neither is talent.
Birkel, a Memphis pledge, marks one of several Chaps who has already committed to play in college, and coach Marci Laracuente used an 11-player lineup Tuesday.
“Our hitting looks great,” Laracuente said. “We have some good power hitters, and we’re deep. Honestly, I think in all of our rotations, we can trust all of our hitters to put it away.”
Casey Campbell had 12 kills, Brennan Haralson knocked down 11 shots and Katie Hashman added nine kills to join Birkel in leading Westlake’s hitting attack.
Setters Rory Williams and Rylee Baptiste — both playing their first full matches of the season — combined for 35 assists to spur an efficient offense.
“This is a good preview of what we can be this season,” said Williams, one of six seniors on the team. “We’re a lot younger than we were last year, but we have a lot of energy. I thought we did a good job of bringing power, but then we had placement shots as well. We did a good job of reading their defense to see what shots were open.”
Canyon (5-5) used strong hitting from Kylie Trefflich to keep a slight lead during the early part of game one, but Westlake eventually took control and used two kills and an ace from Campbell to pull away.
The Chaps played their best during game two, when they closed out the set with a 19-5 run. Haralson made three straight kills to end the frame.
Westlake built an 18-11 lead in game three before eventually finishing out the match.
“That’s a big win for us, especially since we did it in three games,” Laracuente said. “I was proud of the girls for keeping their cool on the court and fighting back from being down early in the first two sets. Canyon is a great team, so this was good for our confidence.”
With their solid early season start, the Chaps can definitely point to their off-the-court chemistry helping their on-the-court success.
“It was 5:45 in the morning when we got people (Monday), so that was extra team-bonding in itself because you got to see everyone at their grumpiest. It was fun,” said Williams with a laugh. “Off the court, everyone is close and there are no cliques. We’re just one big group. On the court, that shows because we work well together.”