Against a towering Whitney Young front line, Klaire Lathan and her St. Ignatius teammates were going toe to toe through 3 sets.
All the while, Lathan could hear Coach Erick Eastman yelling from the bench about her blocking technique.
The senior middle finally made a more aggressive block on the match-winner, and host St. Ignatius prevailed with an exciting 24-26, 25-19, 25-20 nonconference victory on Aug. 28 over Whitney Young.
“I felt like it was all luck, to be honest,” Lathan said with a laugh. “Going up for the block, I felt like every time that I was doing it with my hands up rather than pressing. Coach told me to press. That very last point, I finally did it.”
Working with a 24-20 lead in the third set after an up-and-down two sets, Lathan went up for the block on a long volley.
The 5’10” middle delivered with a huge block for the match winner.
For a veteran team with high hopes, it was a heck of a start.
“This is going to help us because it’s that first win,” Lathan said. “We usually lose to them. We have great team chemistry and energy.”
Whitney Young had played spoiler to the Wolfpack the last two years, beating the team in the sectional final in 2018 and sectional semifinal in 2017.
Although senior Kate Danaher hopes many more big wins are in the cards for St. Ignatius, she’ll take that first big win of the season.
“It means everything for us to beat them,” Danaher said. “We knew coming in that they were going to be big, physical players, and we wanted that revenge game. We didn’t want to lose this one.”
In a 20-18 hole in the third set, the Wolfpack saw a wave of players step up.
After a Young service error, McKenzie Washington, Lathan and Lucy Hermann ripped a kill each to go up 22-20.
Up 23-20, Washington delivered a huge save, lunging to her right to keep the play alive with a dig. Senior Lauren Brunsvold capped the volley with a huge blast into the Dolphins’ defense.
On the next play, Lathan’s block ended the match.
For Brunsvold, a four-year varsity player, her team’s calm demeanor will make all the difference in 2019.
“This group, we don’t get in our own heads as much. We’re not nitpicking, not yelling at each other,” Brunsvold said. “We think ‘OK, we’ve got the next one.’ Years before, it would get into someone’s head. We have girls who are tough and play with positivity and good chemistry.”
The Wolfpack regrouped from a brutal start to the first set, initially falling behind 18-7 after a slew of hitting and serving errors.
Sophomore Kiya Levy (3 kills, 2 blocks) and junior Katherine Randall (4 kills) helped spark the turnaround as Ignatius clawed its way out of the 11-point deficit.
A Maggie Hynes ace tied the set at 24. After a Young timeout, the Dolphins closed with a block and a Wolfpack hitting error.
With Brunsvold and Lathan powering the charge, St. Ignatius went up 18-8 in the second set. Danaher, a Brown University commit, kept spreading the ball to her hitters.
“We got a little frisky early, but we were able to come back,” Danaher said. “It shows our team chemistry and how strong we are at the start of the season. This win and how we played, that’s something we can look for in the future. It’s a great sign that we didn’t let up.”
Danaher (24 assists), Brunsvold (9 kills), Washington (6 kills), Lathan (6 kills) and Maggie Hynes (13 digs, 2 aces) paced the Wolfpack.
Eastman is in his 15th year coaching the program. With a veteran group that’s come together over the last few seasons, he was impressed by the way the Wolfpack executed after a rocky start.
“It really could have gone either way,” Eastman said. “We came out over-amped and looked shaky. They gut-checked their way through part of the third game. They’d been waiting for this for months. It was a great win.”