But Corry Straathof timed her jump perfectly and blocked Holston’s blast back across the net. The point triggered a Walter Johnson run that forced a rare fourth set for the top-ranked Warriors and sent the raucous home crowd into a frenzy.
With sprawling digs and fearless net play, the Wildcats stood toe-to-toe with the two-time defending state champions. But no amount of defense could alter the Warriors’ game plan. Each time Walter Johnson threatened to extend a lead, Sherwood Coach Brian McCarty turned to senior setter Maddie Moyer and pantomimed spooning food into his mouth, the signal to feed Holston the ball.
Moyer responded by setting the 6-foot-1 Florida recruit over and over until the balls stopped coming back. That combination produced a flurry of kills midway through the fourth set and the Warriors held off a late rally to escape with a 26-24, 26-24, 20-25, 25-21 win and extend their area-best winning streak to 52 matches.
“Alex can put the ball away in tough situations, and whenever WJ would push us, that would push her,” Moyer said. “She wants the ball every time, so I know I have to get her the ball and trust that she’ll put it down.”
In a match that featured all the intensity and the drama of a state final, neither team led by more than three points until the final two points of the third set.
Kristen Larrick’s kill past Holston’s block gave Walter Johnson (14-1) a 22-21 lead in the opening set, but Moyer set Holston on four of the next seven points and the All-Met Player of the Year delivered to close out the set.
The second set was just as tight, but in the third, buoyed by Straathof’s return from a rolled ankle and Stephanie Paul’s precise sets, the Wildcats dealt Sherwood (14-0) its second lost set of the season.
Holston’s booming left-handed shots kept coming in the fourth set, and after Paul reeled off four straight service points to pull the Wildcats within 22-20, Holston and Kerra Tirado teamed up for a stuff block that sealed the win.
“We’re definitely not used to that type of pressure and a crowd like that,“ said Holston who finished with 32 kills and 18 digs. “That’s the best match we’ve had this season, and that will definitely help us be ready for the playoffs.”
Moyer had 39 assists for the Warriors, but Paul matched her all night, varying her sets to Larrick (13 kills) and Brigid Morris (eight) on the outside. The effort left the Wildcats confident and eager for a rematch in next month’s state tournament.
“Tonight we showed that we can do this. We can play with this team. We can play with anyone,” Larrick said. “You have no idea how much we want to see them again.”