Comets fight back for 3rd at home

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE - BCLUW outside hitter Jade Hammers, right, hits around the block of South Tama’s Katie Campbell during the second set of their match Saturday at the Comet Round Robin in Conrad.

CONRAD — The BCLUW volleyball team struggled to stoke the same fire that burned hot enough to deliver a hard-fought, emotional win at Gladbrook-Reinbeck two nights earlier, but the Comets still had enough heat to earn third place at their first tournament of the season.

BCLUW won three-straight matches after an 0-2 start to the day and claimed third place at the Comet Round Robin on Saturday, doing the best they could after consecutive losses to eventual champion Hudson and defending champion Benton Community.

The Comets (8-4) took Benton to three games and survived a slow start against North Polk in the next round to claim the three-set victory that separated them from the visiting Comets in the final team standings.

“We knew the competition today was going to be good and that’s what we need to be doing right now, so really we were just looking forward to competing today,” said BCLUW head coach Kristen Garber. “Thursday night was a big win for us, but it’s also kind of hard to come back down off that high and get ready to compete again. Overall I’m pretty pleased with the way we competed today.”

After falling to Hudson (21-17, 21-19) to start the day, BCLUW turned around to take on the defending champions from Benton Community. The Comets got game two but couldn’t keep it going in the third set, falling 21-19, 15-21, 15-6.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

North Polk captured the first game against BCLUW as well, 21-11, and nothing seemed to be going the home team’s way.

“We came out this morning and I feel like we passed really poorly to begin with Hudson but we stayed competitive with them and kept the match really close,” Garber said. “I wish we would have played our best against them but that’s the way it goes. Really I thought we had a few moments of that downward spiral that is a part of our sport, but for the most part I thought we were competitive all day.”

BCLUW kept battling and back to beat North Polk in three, 11-21, 22-20, 15-12, to start a string of three-straight victories. The Comets swept PCM (21-9, 21-9) and South Tama (21-18, 21-15) to close the day with six consecutive set wins and three match wins.

“It is [our tournament] and at the beginning of the season we talked about that and how it really doesn’t matter for conference play, but these [matches] matter too because this adds up to our record at the end of the year,” Garber said. “Plus it gives us momentum going into the week and it’s really a learning experience.”

The Comets gained the knowledge that Garber has reminded them from time to time already this season — that Easton Swanson is the team’s most proficient attacker but that anybody on the court needs to be prepared to get the call in a moment’s notice. Such was the case in BCLUW’s finale against South Tama, as Madison Ubben delivered the last two kills for the Comets to close out game one, and Jade Hammers provided the last successful attack in game two.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

Swanson — who finished 15th in the entire state last season with 436 kills — still led the team with seven kills in the match and 44 for the day, but Hammers had another five and Ubben four in the BCLUW’s final triumph.

Ubben ended the day with 23 kills, Hammers had 20 more and Lizzie Garber added 14.

“We’re actually kind of reminding our setters ‘don’t forget to go to [Swanson] when she’s in the front row,’ but that’s a good thing,” coach Garber said. “We’re going to be better if we’re balanced, we’re not a one-man show here this year, but Easton’s good. I don’t want to take anything away from her.

“I really want all of our hitters to know they can be our go-to person too, because at any given momentum we may not have Easton in the front row so everybody’s got to be ready to step up and I really think they’re showing themselves they can do that.”

Setters Cate Nason and Lizzie came away with 46 and 38 assists, respectively, with a handful of hitters providing the pop. Kennedy Williams returned to action after an illness and contributed five kills to the cause, and Lili Wilson got two kills out of limited action. Bailey Ashton pitched in with 11 assists and two blocks.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

Olivia Hughes paced the Comets with 24 digs, Swanson had 21 digs, Parker Scurr added 16 digs, and Ubben led the front line with nine blocks. Nason served 45-for-47 with four aces, Scurr was 40-for-42 with four aces, and both Lizzie and Hammers had three aces. As a team, BCLUW buried 17 aces on the day and missed only eight serves.

“Everybody played today at least some and today was about competing,” coach Garber added. “I feel like this group is really unselfish. The quote on the back of our T-shirt is ‘It’s not about me, it’s about we,’ and I think this group believes it and they live it and I don’t feel like that’s a battle we are fighting too much this season. They really are in it for the team.”

The Comets resume NICL West Division play with Tuesday’s home match against West Marshall.

STC keeps positive outlook

South Tama County head coach Amy Dolash had plenty of examples to provide her team with for the short journey home, hoping they take with them the positives and leave the rest behind.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

The Trojans went 1-4 on the day, showing glimmers of the hope Dolash has for her club this season.

“The positive is that we learned a lot,” she summed. “We told the girls it’s all those things we’ve been working on that we’re starting to see come to fruition. Each time out we’re getting a little bit better, they didn’t get down on themselves and battled hard against some pretty good teams, so it’s awesome to see how they react to those things.”

The Trojans (2-9) tallied their lone victory against PCM (3-12) in the second of five contests on the day, beating the Mustangs 21-6, 21-10. STC was swept in three of their four losses, fighting WaMaC West Division rival Benton Community to three sets.

“We had the same thing with Clear Creek-Amana this week, we played them Thursday after seeing them in the Grinnell Tournament,” said Dolash. “Obviously we want to win, especially against our conference opponents, but times like this you play against them and now we know what we’ve got to do to capitalize on it.”

The Trojans fell to Benton in three, 21-13, 14-21, 15-11, and in straight sets to North Polk (22-20, 21-14), Hudson (21-15, 21-16) and BCLUW (21-18, 21-15).

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

Stacey Slaven led STC on the day with 28 kills, while Madison Rohach had 15 and Jaelin Berger 10. Setter Katie Campbell came away with 59 assists.

Ashlynn Ellenbecker was 35-for-37 serving with four aces, Rohach finished 35-for-36 with four aces, and Campbell was 35-for-36 with two aces.

Gwen Upah contributed a team-high six assisted blocks, Slaven totaled five blocks and both Rohach and Berger had three blocks. Destinie Johnson chipped in two blocks.

“There were times we just weren’t executing well,” Dolash said. “When we get in ruts like that where our passes are good and we just can’t find the holes over there, we talk about how you change things up. It’s sinking in and they’ll get it the next time.

“At the end of the day we only focus on the positives, what did we do well today and what do we need to prep because we’ve got a conference game on Tuesday against Center Point-Urbana so our focus is all going to turn back to that.”

The Trojans travel to face Class 3A No. 12 CPU on Tuesday night in their only scheduled contest this week.

Comet Round Robin

At Conrad

Team Standings — 1. Hudson 5-0, 2. Benton Community 4-1, 3. BCLUW 3-2, 4. North Polk 2-3, 5. South Tama 1-4, 6. PCM 0-5.

Match scores

North Polk def. South Tama, 22-20, 21-14

Hudson def. BCLUW, 21-17, 21-19

Benton def. BCLUW, 21-19, 15-21, 15-6

Hudson def. PCM 21-6, 21-7

Benton def. North Polk, 23-21, 21-10

South Tama def. PCM, 21-6, 21-10

BCLUW def. North Polk, 11-21, 22-20, 15-12

Hudson def. South Tama, 21-15, 21-16

BCLUW def. PCM, 21-9, 21-9

Hudson def. Benton, 17-22, 22-20, 15-4

North Polk def. PCM, 21-10, 21-13

Benton def. South Tama, 21-13, 14-21, 15-11

Hudson def. North Polk, 21-8, 21-18

BCLUW def. South Tama, 21-18, 21-15

Benton def. PCM, 21-11, 21-6