MENDHAM _ A soul-searching session occurred during West Morris' bus ride back from the Livingston Tournament on Saturday.
The Wolfpack delved deep in an effort to understand how they could go 8-0 in pool play then exit the tourney in the semifinals with an uninspired loss to Ridge.
"It was a really long talk," West Morris junior setter Katelyn Paxson said. "We decided that was not the way we wanted to go down. We played it safe when we should have been more aggressive. Our coach (Jim Balella) told us that if the loss didn't hurt us, we shouldn't come back."
On Monday, Sept. 22, the Wolfpack, clearly wanting to be on the court and looking nothing like they did when they exited the tournament 48 hours earlier, defeated sister school Mendham, 28-26, 25-20, to remain undefeated after seven matches.
"This was a good win for us, especially after the tournament," senior middle hitter Alexa Mataczynski said. "We knew we could play better than that. We didn't show who we are as a team. Today, no one got down on themself. We helped each other keep our heads up and not get discouraged."
Paxson and libero Melanie Brothers realized Balella meant business and had their own discussion on the short trip to Mendham.
"We were saying we had to win or it was going to be really tough at practice on Tuesday," Paxson said. "We always focus on this, focus on that and that's fine. What we need most is to just play and be relaxed."
Paxson was outstanding versus the Minutemen (5-3) with 10 assists, six service points and three digs. Senior outside hitter Gabriella Savite yet another impressive line, posting eight service points, including an ace, eight kills, 21 digs and an assist. Mataczynski added three service points, six kills, three blocks and two digs. Abigail Rec, in her third game back since suffering a high ankle sprain, had six kills and four digs.
"It was a true team effort today," Balella said. "The girls picked each other up and spread the ball around."
With West Morris operating in an efficient manner, Mendham, the defending Morris County Tournament champion, found it difficult to keep pace. However, the Minutemen, who received nine assists from Stephanie Coelho and seven kills from Jamie Shirtz, did not quit.
"We have four or five new players," Mendham coach Kathleen Tucky said. "The team has improved with the leadership of the captains (Coelho, Shirtz, Katherin Staley). We had them well-prepared. The girls did everything I asked of them. We're working with some in new positions."
Tucky noted that two sophomores - opposite Julia Yanowitz and middle hitter Allie Abramski - were in the lineup against West Morris. Yanowitz is a returning starter. Abramski filled in for an injured player. Both performed well.
"Central is an elite program," Tucky said. "They're extremely competitive. To stay with them at their level was great. I'm very pleased."
Mendham libero Katherine Staley made quite a few impressive saves. Paxson got West Morris off to a fast start in the second game, serving for 3-0. Savite had a pair of kills to start the second game.
The Wolfpack were up 18-12 in the second game when Mendham made a run with Christina Silvestri serving. The Minutemen made it 18-17 but West Morris, with two kills and a block by Rec, pulled away.
"I liked the way we battled and never lost composure," Balella said. "The girls fought hard for every point."
Mataczynski was thrilled by the win.
"Any time Central beats Mendham, it's sweet," she said. "This will be good for the conference and the counties. We showed what we can do but we are capable of more."
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