GRUNDY CENTER - When times get tough for the Grundy Center volleyball team, the Spartans look to their seniors to come up with big plays.
And when South Tama County was on the verge of ending a long-standing Spartan streak Tuesday, Grundy Center senior Sam Meyers came through for her squad. Meyers recorded back-to-back kills late in the opening set against the Trojans before a two-hand violation sent Class 1A's top-ranked Spartans to the victory.
Fighting off game point, Grundy Center won the opener and then went on to sweep South Tama on Senior Night 26-24, 25-15, 25-17 in front of a loud crowd in Grundy Center.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
Grundy Center hitter Sam Meyers, right, had 13 kills and 12 digs to lead Class 1A’s top-ranked Spartans to a sweep over South Tama on Tuesday night in Grundy Center. The Spartans have now won 26 straight NICL West Division matches and Grundy Center has not dropped a set in league play since Sept. 22, 2009.
"We expected (South Tama) to come out strong tonight and they came out really strong," said Meyers. "When the team really needs a point, the seniors make sure we get a good pass, a good set and then we have to finish when we get the chance."
The Spartans locked up the NICL West Division title with the victory, improving to 7-0 in league play. They are now 27-4 overall. Grundy Center has won 26 straight NICL West matches and 67 straight sets. The last set lost by the Spartans came on Sept. 22, 2009 when West Marshall took them to five games.
"STC did a lot of good things tonight, and they controlled the first game for the most part," Grundy Center coach Darwin Sents said. "Give our kids credit though. They fought off game point, and that first win helped us get control in the final two games."
Grundy Center 26-25-25, South Tama 24-15-17
West Marshall 25-25-25, East Marshall 12-15-14
AGWSR 21-28-25-25, BCLUW 25-26-16-16
South Hardin 17-25-25-16-15, Gladbrook-Reinbeck 25-14-10-25-8
Benton Community at South Tama
Colo-NESCO at South Hardin
GMG at East Marshall
North Tama at Gladbrook-Reinbeck
South Tama coach Michelle Bradley agreed with Sents. She felt that if her Trojans could have stolen the opening frame, it would have helped grab a lot of momentum in the games moving forward.
"If we would have taken that first game, then it would have been a different story in the final two games," Bradley said. "I wish we could have kept the fire in the last two games. The kids acted like we just lost by 10 points. It was two points to the top-ranked team in the state."
The Trojans needed to battle back from an early hole in the first set. Grundy Center got consecutive blocks from senior setter Heather Hook and eventually led 6-2. South Tama did not go away quietly though, scoring seven of the next 10 points to even the set at 9-all. Many of those points came on errors by the Spartans.
"We made some errors that helped their cause, but South Tama also made some plays that helped their cause too," Sents said.
The Spartans went back up three at 12-9 following a kill and a block by Hook and a kill by Meyers. The lead grew to four on two seperate occassions, but South Tama rolled off four straight points to once again tie it up at 18.
it was then a sprint to the finish and both teams made big plays. Noel Saak and Riley Craun traded kills to keep the match even. The Spartans pushed back ahead by two but a service error and an ace by Emily Martin squared things back up at 22.
South Tama then played with the lead twice and the second tally gave the Trojans game point as Paige VanDyk blasted home a kill.
That is when Meyers responded in a big way. She tied it with a kill and then put the Spartans back in front with a second attack shot. Grundy Center won the game on the next point as the official called South Tama for a two-hand touch.
"We have other kids who can get big points for us, but it is nice to be able to go to her when we need a big play," Sents said of Meyers. "We certainly look to her and Heather to carry us in those moments."
The loss in Game 1 let the wind out of South Tama's sails and the Trojans never seemed to recover.
The Trojans hung around early in the second game and a Trisha Walz kill tied it at 4. But strong play from Meyers as well as kills by Riley Ackerman and Katie Lindeman allowed the Spartans to maintain a four-point advantage. That was until a five-point spurt by Grundy Center put the Spartans up 15-8. And the lead stayed better than seven the rest of the way and ended up as a 10-point win for the top-ranked team in Class 1A.
"We really picked up our play in the last two games," Meyers said. "It wasn't that they played any worse I don't think. It was more about us making less errors."
The third and final set was the easiest of the night for the Spartans until Sents pulled his starters toward the end of the frame.
Grundy Center jumped out to a 7-1 advantage behind two kills from Saak and another from Meyers. Another kill later from Stephanie Faust followed by an ace from Hook made it 10-2 and the Spartans were on cruise control from that point.
Sents began to pull his starters at game point when the Spartans led 24-14. South Tama scored a few points late to narrow the gap but then gave the game to Grundy Center with one last hitting error.
"Things got a little crazy there at the end, but we pulled it out," Sents said. "We became more aggressive in those final two games. But South Tama played very well tonight. That is the best conference team we have played this year."
It was a good effort by the Trojans, but Bradley is hoping her squad plays more like Game 1 and less like the final two games.
"I thought we were getting close to being ready for the postseason, but then our old team came back in those final two sets," Bradley said. "The roller coaster ride for this team is back. We just lost communication and missed some key serves. We also didn't win the long rallies that I thought we needed to win tonight to be successful."
Meyers finished with 13 kills, 12 digs and two blocks for the Spartans, while Hook had 25 assists, six blocks, three kills and two aces.
Saak recorded five kills and was 20-for-21 in serving, Ackerman added 11 digs, four kills and four blocks and Riley Sents had a team-high 14 digs and was 11-for-11 in serving. Hook also was 11-for-12 in serves, while Peyton Ralston was 10-for-10.
South Tama (13-13, 4-3) was led by Rohach's nine kills and Madison Baack's 21 assists. Samantha Holtz had a team-high 17 digs, while Walz finished with 14 digs and six kills. VanDyk also had six kills for the Trojans.
Despite winning Tuesday and finishing another conference season undefeated, Meyers believes the Spartans can still get better.
"We are not there yet," said Meyers, who will play collegiately at Drake University. "We'll keep working on our offense and working on things that can make us a better team. We'll get there eventually."
Grundy Center will conclude its regular season at the Sioux City Heelan Classic on Saturday. The Spartans then host a first-round playoff match Tuesday night.
South Tama, which tied for third in the NICL West Division this season, hosts Benton Community a week from Thursday in its final regular season match of the season.
West Marshall 3, East Marshall 0
STATE CENTER - A balanced offensive effort helped the West Marshall volleyball team secure second place in the NICL West with a 3-0 sweep of East Marshall, 25-12, 25-15, 25-14, here Tuesday night.
Kaitlyn Nichols led the Trojans (21-13, 6-1) with nine kills, McKenna Hotopp had eight, Sydney Beals seven, Whitney Benson six and Kelsiann Halbloom five. Setter Alarie Craven finished with 27 assists.
Hotopp had a team-high 11 digs, Craven added five and Nichols four, and Benson tallied one block as West Marshall won its regular season finale.
Claire Johnson led East Marshall (4-17, 0-7) with seven kills, while Katie and Callie Roseland both charted four kills. Haley Long paced the Mustangs with 12 digs and 11 assists, while Ashley Allen had 10 assists and was 16-for-16 serving.
Johnson tabbed four blocks and Katie Roseland had three for the Mustangs, who round out the regular season with Thursday's Senior Night match at home against GMG.
AGWSR 3, BCLUW 1
CONRAD - The AGWSR volleyball squad overcame a first-game defeat to beat BCLUW in Tuesday's NICL West Division and regular season finale, 21-25, 28-26, 25-16, 25-16.
The win moved AGWSR (10-21, 4-3) into a tie for third place in the NICL West with South Tama, which was defeated by Grundy Center.
BCLUW (9-19, 2-5) was led by Reeba Box with 11 kills, Nicole Montgomery with eight Olivia Callaway had seven and Haley Veldhouse six. But the Comets were charged with 25 attack errors, leading to a night of just .085 kill efficiency.
Nicolette Simpson handed out 26 assists, while Kendall Scurr served 20-for-20 with four of the Comets' eight aces.
Box and Mallory Vawter both had 13 digs and Scurr added 12, while Callaway's four blocks were a team best.
South Hardin 3, Gladbrook-Reinbeck 2
ELDORA - Digging deep, the South Hardin volleyball team held off Gladbrook-Reinbeck in a five-set triumph 17-25, 25-14, 25-10, 16-25, 15-8 in NICL West action Tuesday.
Ellen Swartz led the Tigers (9-16, 3-4) with 12 kills and Sarah Boomgarden added 11, while Emily Haywood, Haley Lawrence and Kayla Prosser each had nine. Alaina Lake came up with 27 digs and five aces, while Kayla Prosser dished out 30 assists. Boomgarden tallied 16 digs, while Haywood and Morgan Ridout each came up with 15.
Britney Keller paced the Rebels (13-18, 2-5) with nine kills, Shelton Hatch had eight and Ellie Stoakes added seven. Erin Wentzien and Hayley Weber came up with 25 and 22 digs respectively as Jenny Schildroth distributed 29 assists.
Both South Hardin and Gladbrook-Reinbeck return to action Thursday. The Tigers host Colo-NESCO (13-10), while the Rebels entertain North Tama (15-13) in non-conference play to close out the regular season.