There’s never been a question about Guyer junior setter Madison Walford’s athletic skills. The third-year starter has built a strong reputation directing the Lady Wildcats’ attack on the court.
On Tuesday night, for example, her 24 assists and six digs helped the Wildcats sweep Keller Fossil Ridge 25-22, 25-20, 25-17.
Walford’s performance was indicative of her play this season, Guyer head coach Addie Mack said. “Consistent, steady — she has grown to be a smart setter. She has evolved into a cognitive player. Her court awareness is really improving.”
But what has pleased Mack the most has been Walford’s emergence as a complete team leader, both by example and by motivating her teammates.
“She’s kind of quiet, unassuming,” Mack said. “We wanted her to become more vocal and she’s done that. She’s become a good leader for us, and that’s important for our young team. I think that’s one reason she was voted one of the team captains.”
Walford, called “Wally” by her teammates and coaches, has had to step out of her comfort zone.
“I’m not a loud person. I’m not usually one to step out that way,” she said. “But this team has really come together. That makes it easier. We’re getting better and trying to meet our goal of being first in district.”
The Lady Wildcats improved to 12-4 on the season with district play beginning next week. They missed the playoffs the last two seasons after a run of three straight appearances that included two District 5-4A titles and a trip to the regional semifinals. They won just four district matches in 2010 and improved last season, finishing one spot out of the playoffs in Mack’s first season.
While there has been improvement this season, there is still work to be done, particularly when it comes to holding big leads.
The first set Tuesday was the most evenly played of the night. Guyer and Fossil Ridge battled to an 18-18 tie before the Wildcats pulled away, with Walford setting up teammates Sylvia Nwiba and Mikayla Yates for three key kills down the stretch.
Walford served to open the second set and staked the Wildcats to a 7-0 lead. Guyer pushed its advantage to 17-8 before Fossil Ridge went on an 8-1 run. Fossil Ridge would get within three points three times, but Walford set twice for kills by Jasmine Montemayor.
Guyer again built a big lead in the third set, going up 16-5 before Fossil Ridge fought back with seven straight points, taking advantage of sloppy play and unforced errors by the Wildcats, to close to 19-12.
But Guyer regrouped, holding Fossil Ridge (8-8) to five points the rest of way. Montemayor finished with 10 kills, five digs and three aces while Nwiba added seven kills.
Overall, the Wildcats had nine aces, six services errors, 32 kills and 22 errors.
“That’s been our problem this season,” Mack said of losing big leads. “It’s something we’re working on. We’re making the mistakes ourselves. It’s not something they [opponents] are doing. Our team is young and we’re making young errors. We can fix that. We did play well overall. We did a good job on serve-ball transition.”
The Wildcats play in the Arlington tournament this weekend, then face Haltom before opening district play against Wichita Falls on Sept. 7.