FRANCIS HOWELL NORTH HIGH SCHOOL – Down 21-15 in the first set of Thursday night’s GAC South volleyball showdown against Fort Zumwalt West, Francis Howell North head coach Robin Yuede decided she’d seen enough.
Yuede had spent the better part of the first set encouraging and urging her Knights to play better and smarter against their rivals from Zumwalt West.
But as the opening set began to wind down, it was apparent Howell North wasn’t quite getting it.
And that’s when Yuede decided it was time for some tough love.
“Yeah, I kind of let them have it,” Yuede said. “We were kind of playing timid. And (Zumwalt West) is a very aggressive team. And when we’re playing timid, and they’re aggressive, it’s not working. We have to be aggressive on every ball.”
And as the final outcome would prove, Howell North certainly got the message.
The Knights immediately rallied back and eventually won the first set 25-22, then completely blitzed Zumwalt West by a score of 25-3 in the second set, for a remarkable two sets to none match win that hardly anyone would’ve expected.
“The victory could’ve gone either way quite honestly,” Yuede said. “They’re a good team, and we have to respect them. But we had to be aggressive with them, because when we’re aggressive, it puts them back on their heels.”
The second set was especially incredible for Howell North, which jumped out to a 9-0 lead, thanks to a combination of powerful hitting by the Knights and unfortunate defense and passing by the Jaguars.
Zumwalt West’s Gabby LaRose finally completed a kill that ended the run and got the Jags on the board.
But that good fortune didn’t last, as moments later Howell North won a long rally to go up 10-2, then won nine more points in a row, thanks to a brilliant bit of serving by Nicole Yuede that basically put the match on ice at 19-2.
“I’m not sure what happened really,” Zumwalt West coach Jill Plassmeyer said. “We just kind of lost our composure. We got our heads down and, I don’t know, it was just over.”
By the time it ended, Howell North had won 35 of the final 39 points, for a lopsided win few expected in a matchup of two of the GAC South’s best teams.
“It’s disappointing, because the girls were really improving,” Plassmeyer said. “I told the girls, we have four more weeks to keep improving before districts. And I see the potential that’s there for us. We’ve just got to keep improving till we get there.”
Zumwalt West’s (8-3) first chance to improve on what happened Thursday night, will come on Saturday, when the Jags will play in the Troy (MO) Tournament against teams like Troy, Columbia Rock Bridge, and St. Charles.
The Jags’ next home game is set for Wednesday, September 28, when they’ll take on Fox in a non-conference match at 5 p.m.
Howell North (10-2) is off this weekend, but will be back in action on Monday, September 26, with a home non-conference matchup against Pattonville.
That match is also slated for a 5 p.m. start.