The Wildcats rallied to victory in the first set and then rode the momentum.
By Toby Carrig ~ Southeast Missourian
MARBLE HILL, Mo. -- First, Leopold stole Woodland's momentum.
Next, the Wildcats were able to unleash Amber Nenninger.
That combination was too much for the Cardinals in Leopold's 26-24, 25-11 victory Monday night at Woodland.
Leopold (12-5) trailed throughout the first set before putting together an 11-3 run that turned a 17-13 deficit into a 24-20 lead. The Wildcats never trailed in the second set, rolling up leads of 11-2 and 18-4 en route to the victory.
"They just started playing their game -- talking and communicating," Leopold first-year coach Sandy Davis said of her players. "The second game we had strong net play. Rachel [Crader] did a good job working the ball around. We had the passing to hit the ball around and be aggressive."
Crader ended with 25 assists, most of those going to Nenninger, a 5-foot-10 senior who had 13 kills and six blocks for the match. After Nenninger closed out a deadlocked first set with back-to-back kills, she had eight kills in the second set, including the first two points to make sure Woodland (11-6) did not steal its momentum back.
"We were antsy at the beginning of the match," Nenninger said. "But we started making our good passes and not getting too hyped up."
Nenninger said the Wildcats' weeklong anticipation for the match created the initial adrenaline buzz. Leopold had lost in three sets to Woodland during the Woodland Invitational, which the Cardinals won.
"They were gunning for us," said Woodland coach Alana Stephens, who was impressed with Nenninger. "When she'd wind it out and get it inbounds, she's a tough hitter."
Woodland never trailed in building its 17-13 lead in the first set.
"We were being aggressive on the net, and our serving always is a positive," Stephens said, "It seems like when things don't go our way, we lose our momentum and dig too deep a hole. Losing that first set was rough. It took the wind out of our sails."
Lotte Cook had two kills and two blocks to lead Woodland.