WALNUT • Once the nerves were settled, Walnut had its way on Tuesday night.
The defending Class 2A volleyball state champs fought off the jitters in the first set, then dominated the next two on their way to a 3-0 sweep (25-21, 25-8, 25-6) over East Webster to take the first-round playoff matchup.
The Lady Wildcats (20-6) will visit East Union on Thursday in the second round.
Walnut coach Kelley Hopper took notice of her over-anxious team midway through the first set, calling a timeout as their lead was trimmed to 11-9 by three straight errors.
“They were just amped up,” Hopper said. “It was a little more chaotic then they are typically accustomed to, so we had to adjust to the chaos.”
East Webster (13-10) went on to tie the first set 12-12 before Walnut later built a 21-14 advantage, using a Belle Martindale kill and a Cadence Rolison ace to bookend a 5-0 run.
The Lady Wolverines battled back behind Peyton Flora, who had two kills and the team’s only ace of the match in the first set to get the score down to 23-21 prior to Walnut finishing the set with two straight points.
From there, it was all Lady Wildcats.
“Once we settled down, and took a deep breath and realized there is a whole bunch of game left, then we were OK. I think the scores of the second and third set kind of reflected that we knew there was more game left than just that one moment,” said Hopper.
A 4-4 tie in the second set quickly turned 15-8 in a blink of an eye. Then, Walnut finished the set on a 10-0 run using a pair of aces from Mabry Jackson and two kills from Dilanie Lafoy.
Madi Kate Vuncannon highlighted a one-sided third set behind the service line. The junior outside hitter led Walnut on a 15-0 run to end the match, notching seven of her team-high eight aces in the run. Vuncannon implemented a new jump serve she’s been working on for the first time in game action, and it paid off in a big way.
“I was a little shaky at first but once I got the first one over, I was just thinking those serves are causing aces, so I need to keep pushing and do what’s best for our team,” Vuncannon said.
Laura Leigh Hughes led the team with eight kills. Vuncannon added five kills. Madison Weeks had four kills to go along with 17 assists.