Le Mars’ Wright recognized for assist milestone after match with West

Friday, September 23, 2022
Payton Wright Honored for 1,000 career assists

LE MARS — Payton Wright was all smiles as she received a bouquet of flowers and four silver balloons, one for each digit that comprised the number 1,000.

Le Mars volleyball coach Jess Wolles made the announcement following Tuesday night’s 25-19, 25-20, 25-21 Missouri River Activities Conference loss to Sioux City West.

Wright, a three-year starting setter, had surpassed 1,000 career assists.

“I had been tracking it a little bit and my mom has been telling me I was close, but I didn’t expect it to be so soon,” said Wright, a four-sport (volleyball, basketball, tennis, softball) athlete who will enter Saturday’s Spencer Tournament with 1,021 assists following a 20-assist performance in front of the fans at Bulldog Competition Gym.

“It’s a huge accomplishment. My passers are the ones who give me the ball, then I set it and give it to my hitters. This is a huge deal, but I couldn’t have done this without my teammates,” Wright said.

Tuesday night she directed an offense which featured seven kills each for outside hitters Holly McNaughton and Lexi Hurd.

“She is a really good leader for our team,” said Wolles. “She is a lot more confident with her sets. Over the years, she is more confident running the quick sets, whereas the first year, she wasn’t as much. She has incorporated the quick sets a lot more.”

Wright didn’t always have the chance to operate a smooth offense because Le Mars (3-15, 0-4 MRAC) struggled with serve reception.

West (8-4, 1-3 MRAC) served aggressively, with five of its seven aces coming in Game 3 when it jumped to a 9-0 lead. Three of the nine points came on Kiley Elgert’s service aces.

Her team trailing 11-2, Wolles called a timeout and expressed her displeasure. It seemed to light a fire because Meredith Arnold blocked Maya Augustine’s kill attempt, one of her three in the match, while consecutive kills from McNaughton and Hurd trimmed the deficit to 12-5. Three times, the Bulldogs pulled within three points. West hurt itself it with hitting errors, as its sizeable lead shrunk to 22-19. Aubree Leusink’s service error gave the Wolverines a point, but Hurd’s kill followed by Jenna Allen’s ace serve trimmed the deficit to 23-21. However, Allen’s serving error and Ireland Sitzmann’s missed chance for her fifth kill gave West the sweep.

“We had a time out when it was 11-2 and finally, the girls started to believe a little bit more,” said Wolles. “They started playing a little harder. Our front row was more aggressive. Our serve receive started getting balls to the setter which helped tremendously in our offense.”

Libero Sarah Brown topped Le Mars in the back row with 11 digs while Wright and Grace Van Otterloo had nine and eight, respectively. Hurd had two blocks, the same number as Lily Kirby and Elizabeth Theeler. Coming through with one ace serve each were Allen, Wright, Van Otterloo, Leusink, Sitzmann and Theeler.

Wright will never forget the hugs and support of teammates and coaches in the post-match celebration of her setting achievement. It’s clear as well that Wright will never forget Wolles’ emotional time out. She described her teammates as “scrappy” in the Game 3 comeback.

“She just wants to see us succeed,” said Wright. “When she sees us get down like that, it breaks her heart. She wants us to be happy and she wants us to achieve wins and beat teams. She wants us to be able to compete.”

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