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DAYTON — Early in the third set, West Side libero Madalyn Barzee spryly lunged forward on a difficult serve receive and delivered a near perfect pass to setter Laney Beckstead, who found first-team all-state outside hitter Jesse Mariscal for one of her 14 kills.

Yep, it was that kind of night for the defending 2A state champions.

West Side was rock solid in all facets of the game en route to a commanding sweep of Aberdeen (25-8, 25-7, 25-6) in a 2A Fifth District volleyball match on Thursday night at the E.L. Bud Elwell Sports Complex. In the process, the Pirates honored their four seniors — Barzee, Mariscal, Marissa Clawson and Brittyn Jensen — in style and captured the district title outright.

“Not only are our seniors great volleyball players, they love to be together, they’re great individuals and they are hard working in the classroom. They’re kind, nice girls, so it’s nice to have a group of girls that work so well together,” WS head coach MeLinda Royer said.

The Pirates (24-4, 7-1) scored the first six points of the match and never looked back against the Tigers. Aberdeen had no answer for the 6-foot-1 Mariscal, who had eight kills in the opening set alone. The three-year starter was recently nominated as one of the top 25 high schools players in Idaho by scorebooklive.com.

“Jesse’s a great player all the way around — front row, back row,” Royer said. “She’s one of my most consistent servers as well, and she’s good defensively as well. She can play the back row just as well as she can play the front row, and she also knows how to adjust to a set.”

And while Mariscal was her go-to target during the first set, Beckstead did a great job of sharing the wealth in the second and third sets. Case in point: Four different Pirates had multiple kills in the second set. Abby Fuller raced up all 10 of her putaways in the second and third sets for West Side, which is ranked first in the most recent 2A Coaches Poll.

“Our goal is always to get to five, get a five-point lead so that we can run some different plays, and (Beckstead) did an excellent job of getting the ball where she needed to at the beginning, and then distributing it around the court so that every player is touching the ball,” Royer said. “That way it throws the blockers off to where we’re going because we really have a strong front row all the way around.”

Meanwhile, the Tigers had a difficult time running their offense, mostly because the Pirates accumulated 14 aces, vs. just six service errors. That was a big reason why Aberdeen only had three kills the entire match, compared to 40 for West Side.

“It is tough (to beat us when we serve like that) because in order to get a point, you usually need to get a pass, set, hit,” said Mariscal, who also chipped in with three aces. “So if they can’t pass, there’s no way they’re going to win.”

The Pirates went on runs of 6-0, 4-0 and 7-0 in the first set, and 8-0, 4-0, 5-0, 4-0 and 4-0 in the second. Aberdeen was competitive for a while in the third set as it only trailed 8-5 before West Side took complete control, powered by the serving prowess of Paige Comeau. The junior contributed with five aces, including three in a row, during a memorable 15-0 West Side spurt.

The Pirates, who showcased some great sportsmanship by surprising Aberdeen’s two seniors with gifts before the match, only trailed once in a set the entire match and that was 1-0 in the second. All seven of West Side’s wins during district action have been sweeps.

Indeed, it’s been that kind of season for the Pirates, who have done an outstanding job of building on what the previous senior class was able to accomplish.

“It has been so fun,” said Barzee, who was a honorable mention all-state selection a year ago. “We always have looked up to the seniors before us, and we always try to (measure) up to their standards.”

The Pirates will now turn their attention to the district tournament, which they will host, starting this Saturday. Top-seeded West Side will square off against fifth-seeded Aberdeen on Day 1 of the tourney, which will resume next Wednesday and Thursday.

“We’re all looking forward to it,” Barzee said. “We’re so excited. All of the teams have improved a lot and we’re just ready to go out there and play our best.”

West Side’s only loss to a district foe so far during the 2021 campaign was a 3-2 nailbiter to Malad on the road last Wednesday, which snapped the Pirates’ 17-match winning streak. However, the Pirates have defeated the Dragons three times this season, including twice at a recent tournament.

Mariscal is anticipating everybody’s best shot at the district tournament.

“It’s tough because all of the teams are looking at us as the championship team, and we always have to pick it up,” she said. “And we notice that when they play other teams, they don’t play as well as they do against us, but we really want to carry on that tradition, and so we’ve been pushing even harder than last year.”

D-BACKS 3, INDIANS 0

Preston was very competitive in two of the sets, but was swept by host Century (25-21, 25-9, 26-24) in the final regular season match for both district rivals.

Khloe Hobson was a thorn in Century’s side as she racked up 14 kills, while teammate Liz Harris chipped in with four. Dru Despain and Adree Selley teamed up for five aces for the Indians (2-19, 0-4).

Jason Turner is a sports reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at jturner@hjnews.com or 435-792-7237.

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