Girls Volleyball: Drew outlasts Leadership in season opener

By Jeremy Balan

Led by hitters Emily Townsend and Ava Decker, Drew School shook of some early sloppy play to edge Leadership High School 3-2 (25-23, 23-25, 25-21, 22-25, 17-15) in a non-league match Wednesday at Booker T. Washington Community Service Center.

Drew senior hitter Emily Townsend sends a ball over the net and a blocker in the Dragons' win over Leadership on Wednesday at Booker T. Washington Community Service Center. Townsend had a game-high nine kills. (Photo by Devin Chen)

The Dragons (1-0) struggled with early unforced errors, but battled back from early deficits in each of their three game wins.

“You never know what to expect in the first match of the season,” said Drew head coach Katie Horne. “We have some new girls on varsity and they’re not used to playing next to each other. There was a huge adrenaline rush [for many of them] starting in their first varsity match.”

Townsend, the team’s senior captain and a returning all-league player, finished with a match-high nine kills, including three kills and an ace in the final five points of the crucial third game.

“She’s a difference maker,” Horne said of Townsend. “We can’t take her off the court. When we do, the team is very different. She pulls everyone together and gives them confidence.”

While Townsend shined in the third game, Decker, a junior, undoubtedly carried the Dragons down the stretch with four of her eight kills and two aces coming in the final two games.

“Each year she comes back reinvented as that much greater of a player,” Horne said of Decker. “Once she gets her confidence up, she’s going to be amazing.”

Leadership got solid performances from hitter Felicia Campbell and setter Briana Sylvester, who each had a team-high eight kills.

Campbell was the main attacking threat for the Griffins and Silvestre kept the Drew defense off-balance with several kills on early strikes from the setter position.

“She’s very smart and knows where to place the ball,” said Leadership head coach Irie Rand said of Silvestre. “She’s an all around player.”

Rand, in her first game at the helm of the Leadership program, was happy with her team’s performance, considering the Griffins just wrapped up try-outs on Monday.

“We did better than I expected,” Rand said. “The more practice we get, the team will be able to gel more and I think we’ll see a lot better performance than we did today.”

Horne was also impressed with the Griffins’ scrappy nature.

“We faced a really amazing defensive team, who just kept coming back,” Horne said. “They were able to dig everything we hit at them.”

So early in the season, both teams recognize that there is still plenty of work to be done.

“We need to work on a lot of little things and our communication between players,” said Horne. “But those things will come and that’s what we’ll be working on.”

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