Redhawk comeback falls short vs. Dons

TRAER – Channing Halstead was concerned about pushing Abbie Schafer back into action too quickly.

The senior’s influence on a breakout third set showed what the Redhawks have been missing in her absence.

Bouncing back from a pair of one-sided losses in the opening two games, North Tama’s original lineup from the start of the season clawed back for a win in the third set before succumbing to Don Bosco in the fourth.

The Class 1A No. 12 Dons put the pedal to the metal again late to close out a 25-9, 25-15, 21-25, 25-9 victory in Thursday’s Iowa Star Conference South Division showdown.

Still working her way back from a rolled ankle that kept her out of action for two weeks, Schafer returned to provide five kills and five assists and a much-needed spark.

“We weren’t as discombobulated, we kind of went back to our very original lineup from the very beginning of the season and just found our comfort zone again,” Halstead said of the third set. “I kind of hesitated to do that to start with just because Abbie coming off an injury and being a vital part, I didn’t want to waste Abbie for one game and not have her again for the rest of next week or something.

“We played as a team, we had lots of energy, we were smart, we were swinging and we were the aggressors. When we’re an aggressive team, we’re just as good as anyone. But when we’re a timid team we hurt ourselves more than the other teams do.”

The Redhawks (7-9, 0-4) suffered their fifth straight loss but gained a grasp of how well they can play at full strength with an aggressive mentality. North Tama scored the first four points of the game and answered a five-point rally from the Dons (10-4, 4-0) with a 8-2 rally. Sam Watson smashed a kill down the middle and Schafer served up an ace to aid a 12-7 lead.

The Dons hung around and made another late push to knot the set at 18 but North Tama took the next four including a big block from Watson. Don Bosco pulled within two once more but Madison Howard barely snuck a ball inside the post as she was running out of bounds and Watson rejected another Dons attack to extend the match.

“We’ve had some injuries and we’ve been trying to find stuff that works during those injuries,” Halstead said. “I feel like that third set we found our groove again, we found something that worked and we were the aggressors that game. A lot of times when we lose, it’s more us beating ourselves than the other team beating us. That time we came out more the aggressors and we didn’t beat ourselves.”

North Tama remained competitive early in the fourth set leading 4-2 on an Alyssa Wrage ace. Don Bosco quickly transformed a 6-5 deficit into a 17-7 advantage as seniors Haley Reiter and Erin McFadden took control up front. The Dons never let up and kept North Tama out of double digits for the second time in the match to push their win streak to seven.

Don Bosco broke open a 7-6 edge in the opening set with a 7-0 flurry. North Tama took two points to pull within 14-8 before the Dons rattled off a 9-0 surge on their way to clinching game one. North Tama hung around longer in game two and utilized a 7-2 rally punctuated by a Marika Kopriva ace to bridge the gap to 17-13. The visitors took the next four points and coasted to a 2-0 lead in the match, but couldn’t get out of cruise control in the next set.

“I think they got a little too comfortable going into the third set, that’s what happens typically when you beat a team like that,” Dons coach Abby Breitbach said. “They got quiet, they got comfortable, they were not playing with any amount of intensity. I think getting beat like that and learning that if you settle down just a little bit, teams are going to come back, they’re going to fire up. And they are fired up, they’re a solid team. We just did not play our game that third set and it was just a matter on intensity I think.”

Libero Hanna Halverson highlighted a strong defense for the Dons and kept numerous points alive that appeared to be headed to the floor.

Howard matched Schafer with five kills while Kopriva and Watson tallied four apiece. North Tama had 20 kills overall but committed 30 attack errors. Kopriva dished out nine assists and served 15-of-16 with an ace. Lydia Schafer also had an ace, serving 11-of-12, while Alicia Martinez came up with 18 digs.

Notebook

The Redhawks travel to Waterloo Christian next Tuesday.