Fort Smith, Arkansas • Tuesday, August 28, 2001

Lady Lions Start Strong

By Sonya Boisvert

Sometimes the pregame warmup can be a good indication of what is about to unfold.The Westark College volleyball looked like the stronger team before its match Monday, and little changed once the best-of-five tilt started against Labette (Kan.) Community College.
Westark (1-0) rolled to the 30-13, 30-13, 30-14 victory in its season opener at Westark Fieldhouse.
This is the inaugural season for rally scoring (games to 30) during the first four games. The fifth and deciding game will return to the traditional standard for scoring.
Westark could have scored as little or as many points as it needed against the much smaller Labette team, as everything the Lady Lions tried worked. Sophomore Megan Kahl, the tallest player on the court, had little trouble in trying to perfect her early season blocking form, recording nine in limited action.
“Blocking is definitely going to be one of our strengths this year,” Westark coach Jane Sargent said. “We have two really strong middles in Kahl and (Emily) Whiteley.”
Local favorite Emily Whiteley had four kills and drilled in several solid serves in her first collegiate match. Whiteley made the short move over from Southside High School, where she helped lead the volleyball program to two straight state titles.
As for kills, eight different players found the scoring column for Westark. Sophomore transfer Paula Castro showed flashes of why she was an integral part of the Northeastern Oklahoma A & M team from a year ago with four kills, including three during a short stretch in the second game. The game was tied at eight apiece, before Westark scored 10 of the next 12 points to take control.
With Labette posing no threat to taking a game, Sargent looked at different lineup combinations. One player taking advantage of playing time was Julia Graham. The a 6-foot-1 freshman had six kills and two blocks in the final two games.
Graham also reeled off five straight service points in the third game to help the Lady Lions grab a 11-5 edge. Freshman Audra Sonnier, a former Southside player then served out the final seven points to seal the victory.
With rally scoring, serving errors are magnified and after serving up seven miscues in the first game, Sargent was happy to see the team cut down on the miscues the rest of the way.
Westark will try to make it two straight over Kansas teams when they host Neosho County Community College on Wednesday. The match starts at 6 p.m.

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