OAKWOOD — LeNiesha Kearse is all about being a team player for West Hall’s volleyball team, it just usually doesn’t involve blocking a point off her forehead.
Late in the third game and the first-round playoff match against Troup already under control, Kearse, a middle hitter for the Lady Spartans (27-16), scored a point when she took a return by a Tigers middle hitter off her forehead.
That was just the finishing touch on a great first-round outing for West Hall, and a dominating 25-13, 26-16, 25-16 win in Oakwood, that secured the Lady Spartans a spot in the second round of the playoffs Tuesday at Ringgold, the Area 7-AAA champion.
“That’s the most dominating we’ve played this season,” West Hall coach Joe Nelson said. “We’re clicking in all phases now.”
Much of that, Nelson said, is a result of last weekend’s Area 8-AAA runner-up finish. The Lady Spartans battled in the area tournament all the way to the finals before losing to eventual champion Oconee County.
“We got better through handling the pressure and stress of the area tournament,” Nelson said.
Now with a first-round playoff win under their belts, West Hall has visions of making a deep run in the postseason.
“I feel like we can make it to the final four,” said Kearse, who had seven kills. “Our team is playing with a really good attitude and just continuing to improve.”
Not only was Kearse, who also had four blocks, fearless at the net for West Hall, but the entire team played great defense and limited Troup’s scoring chances. They also benefited from great serves out of the left-handed, right-side hitter Stephanie Rowland, who had six kills.
The Lady Spartans also provided a nice change of pace on their shots, using all their passes to the benefit of keeping Troup off guard. Nicolette Ashley finished with 12 digs for West Hall, Laykin Herford had 21 assists and three aces, and Tonya Bennett added six kills and a pair of blocked shots.
“This is really exciting coming out with a big win today,” Rowland said. “We’re all bonding right now and a lot stronger than we were earlier in the season.”
It didn’t take West Hall long to have firm control of the match’s first game. The Lady Spartans jumped out to a 10-4 lead in Game 1, followed by a forceful spike from Kearse, and a point off three beautifully played touches to round out the win.
“LeNiesha is hitting the ball so much better and is playing with a lot of confidence,” Rowland said.
Kearse was the glue that held West Hall together not only with her hard hits over the net, but distributing the ball to teammates. The Lady Spartans were tied early in both the second and third games before going on lengthy scoring runs that sealed the victory.
Tied 5-all in Game 3, West Hall went on to score 14 of the next 17 points, securing the opening round win.
“Now, we just have to keep playing to our ability,” Kearse said.