EDINBORO — Kalani Ah Wong, a 1997 Meadville graduate, took over the General McLane girls volleyball team in July, late in the offseason. That led to a slowish start for the Lancers, who droped six of their first 10 games. Yet, there are signs of growth everywhere for this team, and it showed on Thursday night.
In a non-region girls volleyball match at General McLane High School on Thursday night, General McLane outlasted Saegertown in five sets 21-25, 25-18, 25-23, 18-25, 15-8.
“It’s my first year head coaching a high school program,” said Wong. “I’ve helped out with Calvary Baptist. I did a lot of stuff on my own courts (at the Meadville-based Northwest Pa. Volleyball League). I’m also director of Erie Bank Sports Park, their volleyball programs and stuff.”
Thursday’s win, he added, “Is a good confidence booster. Our year has been spotty. I got involved in the program late, end of July, so by that time everybody is already two months into their pickups and stuff. So it took us a while to get adjusted, know the girls and know what their weaknesses are.”
It seems as though the Lancers have figured out things. With back-to-back wins, the Lancers are now 6-6 overall.
The Panthers dropped to 8-3 on the season.
Saegertown took the early lead in the match with a convincing 25-21 first set win in which the Panthers never trailed. A Brittany Houck kill combined with a General McLane error gave Saegertown the 1-0 set lead.
McLane marched back with a stronger performance in set two. Saegertown started missing passes and the Lancers made them pay. Jenny Leseur batted down two at the net to knot things up 1-1.
“At times we just passed terrible,” said Saegertown head coach Justin Johnson. “That was the biggest thing.”
It looked as though Saegertown was going to respond with a win in the third set, up 23-20. But the Lancers had other plans. They rattled off five straight points highlighted by a Grace Williams block and an ace by Ali Lamoreaux to steal the set.
“(Lamoreaux) serving for them, she gave us fits all night,” added Johnson.
“People are trying to play their roles, not do too much, not do too little, just get better in their assignments,” said Wong.
Saegertown brought it to a decisive fifth set with a 25-18 win in Game 4, but in the end the Lancers just had that extra jump. Two kills and a block by Williams pushed McLane out to a 5-1 lead, and that lead expanded to 9-3. The Panthers couldn’t work their way back. On match point with the Lancers up 14-8, a pass went too far across the net and Kayle Seidel batted it down for the winning kill.
“I think it’s all up to the girls, their aggressive nature. All you got to do is challenge them a little bit,” said Wong. “Put it to them, this is their season. I have five great seniors. They’re great leaders, and as you saw, I don’t think they want to lose.”
For Saegertown, Ava Jones passed 41 assists. Averie Braymer tallied 15 kills. Brittany Houck added 13 kills and 10 digs in the loss.
Seidel led the way with 20 kills, 18 digs and three blocks. Brooke Simmons contributed 25 digs. Williams tallied nine kills, six blocks and two digs while Makayla Jay tacked on 33 assists and three aces.
“All in all the girls are super athletic, great kids, willing to learn,” said Wong. “We’re just trying to build something for next year as well.”