CONRAD - The first game between BCLUW and Gladbrook-Reinbeck on Thursday night featured 60 points, 10 lead changes and 15 ties.
And when it was all said and done, both head coaches felt like the opening set of the Comet's four-game win over the rival Rebels was the key to entire match.
BCLUW fought off three game points from the Rebels and recovered from a poor performance in game two to beat Gladbrook-Reinbeck 31-29, 11-25, 25-15, 25-18 during North Iowa Cedar League West Division action.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
BCLUW junior Nicole Montgomery, center, hits through the blocks of Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s Shelton Hatch (6) and Bailea Evenson (1) during the Comets’ four-game win over the Rebels on Thursday in Conrad. Montgomery had a team-high eight kills in the Comet win.
"That was really big," BCLUW coach Kristen Garber said of the opening set victory. "I would have been worried if we would have dropped that long, emotional first game.
"We had an emotional five-game match on Tuesday, and I was afraid it was going to be tough to come back and play at that same high level tonight. Maybe, that's what contributed to our second game. We took a little break there."
Gladbrook-Reinbeck coach Jay Arends really felt like his Rebels should have won the opening game. They had plenty of chances but couldn't close out the victory.
"I think the first game is the one that really set the tone," Arends said. "That is one we should have had, and if we could have taken game one we could have possibly taken the match in three or four games."
The way the Rebels played in game two, it's hard to argue against Arends' opinion. But the Comets (4-6, 2-2) did a nice job recovering in the final two games and managed to close out their conference rival in four games at home.
"I don't think it was about us focusing on one player of theirs," said Garber. "It was more about us focusing on what our job was on our side of the net. We passed very well tonight. We gave our hitters a chance to swing. When we did that, we were successful."
The marathon opener went back-and-forth the entire way. The biggest lead was G-R's three-point advantage that forced BCLUW into a timeout at 15-12.
The Comets quickly recovered out of the timeout though following a kill by Kendall Scurr and an ace by Bobbi Paper. Olivia Callaway then made sure the game stayed close with two kills and the second one tied it at 20-all. After another tie at 21, Callaway gave the Comets a two-point cushion with another blast, but the Rebels (2-7, 1-2) closed the gap with a Hanna Christopher kill and two hitting errors by BCLUW.
The Comets led 24-22 later but couldn't close it out until a Scurr ace and a Rebel hitting error made it 31-29. The game was tied at 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29.
BCLUW held a 7-3 advantage in the second game, but Gladbrook-Reinbeck recovered quickly. The Rebels outscored the home team 22-4 over the final 26 points to even the match at one game apiece.
During that stretch, G-R senior Britney Keller went to work, recording seven kills and a block to get her squad back in the match. Setter Jenny Schildroth also served 11 straight points during game two, turning a 14-10 lead into a 25-11 win.
Keller finished with 15 kills, 14 digs, three blocks and was 9-for-9 in serves.
"She is our go-to player," Arends said of Keller. "We try to get her the ball as much as we can. They kept us out of system a little bit though. We couldn't get her the ball in the final two games. If we are in system, and we can get her the ball, she is very tough to stop."
Garber said the Comets did not do much to focus on Keller in the final two games. She was only concerned with what was happening on her side of the net.
"We didn't do anything different," said Garber. "We just had to do a better job of knowing what our job was on every single ball. The girls responded very well."
The Rebels used their momentum from game two to grab an early advantage in the third game, but the momentum was short-lived.
A pair of kills from Keller put the Rebels up 6-3, but four straight Comet points pushed the advantage back to BCLUW. After Keller tied it at 7-all, the Comets went on a 6-0 run to stay in front for good.
"Both of us had runs, but they sustained theirs better than we did," Arends said. "When they made their run, we couldn't stop it when we needed to."
Sophomore Hannah Sams capped the run with a block and a kill on consecutive points. Back-to-back kills by Nicole Montgomery gave the Comets a 21-13 lead and a Mallory Vawter ace eventually gave the home team game point. A G-R service error ended the game and put the Comets up 2-1.
Montgomery ended up with a team-high eight kills and 13 digs in the victory. Scurr contributed five kills, the Comets' only two aces and nine digs.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck didn't establish any kind of momentum in the fourth game. With the frame tied at 6-all, the Comets got kills from Callaway and Vawter to go up 9-6 but a pair of Keller kills kept the BCLUW lead within two points. Three straight points propelled the cushion to 18-13 and the Comets never looked back.
Two net violations by G-R, two kills from Vawter and a Callaway kill ended the Rebels' night. The win for the Comets was their second straight. Callaway finished with five kills and 13 digs on the night.
"I feel like when we are aggressive at the net, things go a lot better for us," Garber said. "We got into a pattern of taking too many tips. Staying aggressive late in the game helped us get the win."
Nicolette Simpson delivered 13 assists and four digs for the Comets, while Paper added eight assists. The Comet setters combined to go 30-for-30 from behind the service line. Vawter also had a team-high 18 digs. ... Ellie Stoakes recorded seven kills for the Rebels, while Bailea Evenson and Shelton Hatch both had six. Hatch also finished with eight blocks, Alyssa Christopher had 24 digs and Schildroth dished out 34 assists. ... The Rebels were 82-of-87 in serves with seven aces. Hayley Weber finished with three aces and also had nine digs. ... Both teams will be back in action Saturday at the Gladbrook-Reinbeck Tournament. Action is set to begin at 10 a.m.