PATASKALA — Athletes can feel a lot of pressure to perform when the bright lights of tournament play gets turned on.
Even the most experienced athletes, those who have stood on the brightest stage the sport has to offer, struggle with the pressure.
The No. 3 seed Jonathan Alder volleyball team had its bout of nerves during a Division II district semifinal contest with No. 8 Licking Valley Thursday at Licking Heights. The Lady Pioneers struggled a bit but ultimately got things rolling and topped the Panthers 25-13, 22-25, 25-17, 25-8.
“I think a lot of it is nerves,” Alder assistant coach Jennifer Patterson, who was filling in for head coach TJ Read said. “They have a big goal of getting back to states and so when they first get out there they feel the pressure of this game and they’re thinking way too far ahead. I have to bring them back. Just play volleyball, just play your game.”
Alder (17-6) was far from sharp early, but was able to win the first game. The upstart Panthers took advantage of the bevy of serving miscues by the Pioneers to take the second game, but Alder bounced back in a big way. Not through the words of a fiery coach but the cool and quiet demeanor of the squad’s heady players.
“(TJ) and I are on the same page and we honestly try and stay out of huddles,” Patterson said. “The girls talk at such a high level in their huddles, we don’t need to say much, we just have to keep their energy level at where it needs to be. So honestly, it wasn’t too much different tonight.”
Alexa Hasting and Kassie Blank combined for 25 kills for the Pioneers and Taylor Izzard had five aces as Alder’s serve game got cranked up in the final two games.
“We have a couple players who lead this team, but Kassie Blank will just come out and get a kill for us and you can just see the joy on her face and that just gets us going, everybody has a role. Her role tonight really changed our energy level.”
Alder advances to its third straight D-II district final where it will play No. 2 seed Granville Saturday at 1 p.m. back at Licking Heights.
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.