Maintaining momentum

Grundy Center volleyball starts regional action with sweep of Hudson

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • Grundy Center players Kylie Willis, left, Hannah Stahl (5) and Sydney Mathews (8) celebrate after the Spartans completed their sweep of Hudson on Monday night in Class 2A Region 5 semifinals.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • Grundy Center players Kylie Willis, left, Hannah Stahl (5) and Sydney Mathews (8) celebrate after the Spartans completed their sweep of Hudson on Monday night in Class 2A Region 5 semifinals.

GRUNDY CENTER — After a long, 10-day break between the end of the regular season and beginning of the postseason, the No. 3 Grundy Center volleyball team returned to action against Hudson on Monday night in a Class 2A Region 5 quarterfinal matchup.

The break clearly didn’t hinder the Spartans at all, as they rolled to a three-set sweep of the Pirates, 25-12, 25-10, 25-17.

Grundy Center senior Landry Luhring said the Spartans fans created a raucous environment in their home gym, which helped the team move on to the regional semifinals.

“Everything went really well, we came out with high energy and high intensity,” she said. “We had a big crowd here tonight, which was nice to see, and we hope that continues Thursday.”

Head coach Lori Willis agreed with her senior’s statement about how the girls started, saying they were ready to get back into action after the long break.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • Grundy Center junior Hailey Wallis (12) rises up for a shot against Hudson’s Kylee Sallee during the Spartans’ sweep of the Pirates in the Class 2A Region 5 quarterfinals on Monday night.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • Grundy Center junior Hailey Wallis (12) rises up for a shot against Hudson’s Kylee Sallee during the Spartans’ sweep of the Pirates in the Class 2A Region 5 quarterfinals on Monday night.

“It was great to see us come out strong, I think our girls were excited about seeing the scoreboard on again,” Willis said. “Playing somebody else that wasn’t wearing another Spartan jersey, so that was exciting. The girls jumped on them really well and I was proud of how they came out of the gate.”

Set one was a blow out from the beginning, though Hudson (17-16) did manage to gain some momentum after the Spartans (35-6) had pretty much solidified the set win. The Pirates carried that momentum to the second set, battling Grundy Center to a 5-5 tie early on.

That didn’t last long, however, as the Spartans closed out the second on a 20-5 run. Luhring said what caused that big run was the girls finally getting through on a couple of new approaches they were attempting.

“We were trying to run a bunch of different stuff and that helped open up more holes for our hitters,” she said. “Then we just continued to have high energy and said ‘hey guys, we’ve got to pick it up, this is what we’ve got to do.'”

Willis said what caused Hudson to keep it close early on in the set wasn’t the play from the Pirates, but mistakes by the Spartans.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

“We cut back down our errors, basically tonight I am guessing that 80 percent of their points were our errors,” she said. “There were a couple of no-goes that we had that we’ll definitely address tomorrow in practice, but I really think it was just us taking care of the ball.”

It was a similar situation in the third set, as Hudson actually owned an early lead and was tied with Grundy Center midway through the match at 11-all. Once again, the Spartans made a run to pull away and secure

the sweep, but Willis said the girls have to start stronger in close-out sets as the postseason moves along.

“In set three, we came out kind of lackadaisical thinking ‘oh, we are just going to win,’ and I really don’t like that because that can get us in a dangerous situation down the road,” Willis said. “We need to talk about that and just play clean and crisp, we can’t let a few things get to us, we can’t let them bother us because that’s going to happen. We are going to face adversity and we need to be mentally tough and overcome those.”

Grundy Center was balanced in the scoring attack all night, as Luhring and Kylie Willis finished the match tied for the lead in kills with nine, followed by sophomore Emerson Kracht with seven. The Spartans were also effective in service with 13 team aces.

Luhring said that ability to attack from multiple angles gives the Spartans an advantage against some of the tougher opponents.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

“I really like how we are so diverse, it really helps us against teams because they don’t know who we are setting,” Luhring said. “We are all confident in each others’ skills and it helps us be a closer team, which is really, really nice.”

Kracht specifically causes matchup issues with teams because she doubles as both an attacker and a setter for Grundy Center. After the win, Kracht said she enjoys both getting the points herself and passing to her teammates, she just wants to help out in any way possible.

“I don’t really prefer either, I just want to help the team the best I can,” she said. “I enjoy both, setting is a newer skill for me so working on it is something I have to keep doing.”

The Spartans got it done defensively as well, especially at the net where Kylie Willis and Brooke Flater had three blocks apiece.

Now Grundy Center sets its sights on the regional semifinal on Thursday, where it will host NICL West rival BCLUW with the winner moving on to the state-qualification match. Coach Willis, before knowing her Spartans would face the Comets, said she wanted to take on BCLUW because she likes seeing the other teams in the conference succeed.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

“Honestly we really don’t care who we see, but we would love to see BCLUW because they are in our conference and we really want to support teams in our conference, so that would be super exciting if it was them,” Willis said.

Both Luhring and Kracht have been a part of state qualifying teams for Grundy Center, so both of them know what it takes to win a regional bracket. Kracht said what will help win this semifinal is for the girls to continue believing in themselves and doing what they do best.

“We need to keep our confidence and play our own game and not worry about who’s on the other side of the net,” she said. “Just really have ball control, that’s what helps us the most in these games.”

Luhring said the team is on the cusp of peaking at the right time, there are just a few adjustments they need to make in practice.

“If we need to work on anything it’s maybe getting that quicker offense down set,” she said. “We are almost there but not quite.”

The Comets and Spartans will face off in the semifinals starting at 7 p.m. on Thursday in Grundy Center.