Spartans sweep aside Comets
CONRAD — Tuesday was senior night for the BCLUW volleyball team, and the Comets had a bear of a task ahead of them to send out their five seniors, facing Class 2A No. 3 Grundy Center in a NICL West Division matchup.
BCLUW fought hard and competed strong on the night, but in the end the Spartans walked out of Conrad with their 57th-straight win in divisional play, 25-19, 25-8, 25-18.
Grundy Center head coach Lori Willis said her girls played exceptionally on the road, especially after rebounding from only their second loss of the season last Saturday against Center Point-Urbana.
“I was really proud of the girls on how they started every game, they really focused on that,” Willis said after the win. “Different kind of things happened where they weren’t as smooth as we would like. The whistle was interesting tonight, to say the least, which doesn’t allow a team to play smooth. We are a team that loves to play smooth and we roll when we are on, and we weren’t able to get that since there was some disconnect.”
Spartans junior Kylie Willis said the team came into the matchup wanting to get back on the winning side of things, and she was happy they learned from the loss on Saturday.
“You are always going to face adversity in volleyball and you have to put it behind you and focus on your next game,” Kylie said. “Learn from your loss and what you did wrong and take those lessons and move on.”
Though they took the win, it wasn’t a cake walk for Grundy Center, especially in the third set when BCLUW owned a 14-12 lead over the Spartans. As it generally does in those situations though, Grundy Center gathered itself and made a long, eight-point run to take the lead for good.
“We just wanted to focus on ourselves and make sure we weren’t making errors on our side and doing our best job killing the ball and getting good passes and good sets,” Kylie said of the comeback in the third. “Just focusing on our play and not worrying about the other side.”
The Spartans had five girls with at least five kills in the match. Sophomore Emerson Kracht led the team offensively with seven kills, followed by Brooke Flater and Landry Luhring with six, then Kylie and and Hailey Wallis with five.
Coach Willis said the plan heading into the matchup was to get some other girls involved, and the Spartans did so with a variety of misdirection and quick-set plays.
“We knew that we would be able to do some different things and work on different things, we did that a lot in practice, being able to push different players with different sets and different plays,” Willis said. “And they were fun, it gets us super excited, as you can see when we connect.”
As for getting more and more girls involved on the offensive end as the season goes along, Willis said she enjoys seeing her team develop and become more well-rounded, which ultimately makes them more dangerous.
“I love watching Hailey play, she is just such a high flying jumper and she can really get up and get on top of that, which is super fun,” Willis said. “Emerson is just a beautiful player to watch, she has a nice reach and she does a great job of squaring up to the ball and hitting the ball over the net. Brooke Flater did another fantastic job tonight, she had some tough sets and she did well with what she had.”
Defensively, Grundy Center was able to hold BCLUW lead killer Easton Swanson fairly in check, allowing the junior only seven kills in the match. Willis said the plan was to put a damper on what Swanson wants to do and make the other Comets beat them at the net.
“Our approach was to focus on her, we had a goal for allowing her on how many kills she could get,” Willis said. “I knew she might get the first few because she has a very fast arm and it’s going to take our block a little bit to adjust to it, but once we adjusted it was great. Then we started digging her too, once you get used to a player then you are able to see her better.”
Madison Ubben was the next lead in kills for the match for BCLUW with four, while senior Lauren Anderson chipped in three. Comets head coach Kristen Garber said, though her team didn’t come away with the victory, she was proud of how they competed against one of the better teams in the state.
“I am pleased that we were competitive for us,” Garber said. “A couple of those game were fun for us and the girls looked like they were having and that’s really what this is about so that’s good to see.”
Grundy Center libero Kyah Luhring was the top defender for either side with 17 digs, while Swanson led BCLUW with 10 digs. The Spartans were led in assists by Sydney Mathews with 20 and Cate Nason led the Comets with 11.
Next up for Grundy Center is another tough tournament at Waverly-Shell Rock on Saturday, while BCLUW heads to a tournament in Waterloo.