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G-R bests rival BCLUW in ranked clash

No. 6 Rebels top No. 14 Comets in 3

T-R PHOTO BY NOAH ROHLFING - Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s Ava Wyatt (6) goes up for the attack against BCLUW’s Eden Wilson, left, and Allison Engle during Tuesday’s NICL West Division showdown in Conrad. The sixth-ranked Rebels swept the No. 14 Comets.

CONRAD — Midway through the second set of Tuesday night’s ranked battle between Class 1A No. 6 Gladbrook-Reinbeck and No. 14 BCLUW, the momentum had shifted. After losing the first set 25-17, the Comets were executing better and held a 19-12 lead, looking odds-on to tie the match and make G-R sweat.

Rebels head coach Paula Kelley called a timeout and sent a message.

“I told them first not to panic, that we’ve been in this situation before with [AGWSR],” Kelley said. “We know that we can play the ball, we know that we can pass, once we get the passes done everything else starts to click.”

G-R flipped the set on its head after the timeout, scoring three straight points and eventually taking the set 25-23 to go up 2-0 in the match. The Rebels would take the 3-0 win and move to 17-1 on the season with a 12-game winning streak. The Comets dropped to 9-5 and 1-1 in NICL West standings, missing an opportunity to take control of the conference.

BCLUW head coach Kristen Garber was frustrated with the Comets’ performance.

T-R PHOTO BY NOAH ROHLFING - BCLUW’s Eden Wilson, center, sends an attack against the double block of Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s Katie Clark (10) and Ava Wyatt during the second set of Tuesday’s NICL West Division volleyball match in Conrad. Wilson led all players with 13 kills.

“This is a big disappointment,” Garber said. “This was a match that we wanted to win, especially on our home court and a big conference match.”

In the first set, G-R got off to a quick jump and forced the Comets to take a timeout down 8-3. The G-R attack was going smoothly and in the 25-17 win, it looked comfortable for the Rebels despite the early lesser involvement of Saari Kuehl on the front line. Kuehl was a target of BCLUW’s defense the entire match, but she would manage to finish with six kills.

The second set was where things got hairy. The Comets began to get kills and force G-R into mistakes, leading to the large lead. A catalyst in the attack was Eden Wilson, who led the team (and the match) with 13 kills on the night.

The comeback in set two for G-R was sparked by Katie Clark. The junior had eight kills, with one of them being a crucial momentum-shifter to put the Rebels back within five points of the Comets. From there, G-R’s confidence grew and the team began to find the rhythm it had been missing all set long. Service errors from BCLUW didn’t help matters for the Comets.

“We know what we had to do, we just had to put it into play,” Clark said.

Clark led the Rebels in kills with eight. Kuehl and Megan Cooley had six, Ava Wyatt got three and Emma McClintock and Mahayla Olson got two each. McClintock had 24 of the team’s 25 assists. The Rebels got 13 aces, led by four from Cooley and Kuehl. RyLinn Bergmann and Alyssa Morgan recorded two aces while McClintock had one.

BCLUW got 34 kills, led by Wilson’s 13 and eight from Allison Engle and Lizzie Garber. Kenna Paxson had five. Lizzie Garber led the Comets with 17 assists, Engle had 10 and Sydney Anderson and Emma Averill got two. The Comets had just three aces, one each from Averill, Anderson and Engle.

In the third set, BCLUW kept fighting and went back-and-forth with G-R. The match was tied from the start until it was 16-16, the teams swapping the lead and never getting a bigger gap than three. But with the score 20-18 in the Rebels’ favor, BCLUW called a timeout.

Afterward, G-R scored five of the next six points and completed the sweep — a big victory for the Rebels in what was a big test for two teams hoping to make the state tournament.

“This is the first of our big finish,” Kelley said. “This was good, it was a well-played match. I thought it could have gone either way for both sides and I’m just happy it went our way.”

Defensively the Rebels got 45 digs, with Kuehl (14) and Olson (11) in double-figures. Morgan had eight, Stephanie Kehoe had five, McClintock and Bergmann had three each and Wyatt got one. G-R had 11 blocks — four for Clark, three for Cooley, two for Wyatt and one each for McClintock and Kuehl.

BCLUW had 47 digs, led by 16 from Averill, seven from Lizzie Garber and six each from Anderson and Engle. The team’s two blocks were by Katie Hill and Engle.

The lack of a block was crucial to the night’s outcome, Garber said.

“Obviously we needed to put up a better block than we did,” Garber said. “Our block was not very good tonight and notoriously our block has been good, so that was a bit of a disappointment but obviously they’re a different challenge than a lot of teams.”

Up next for G-R is a home game Sept. 29 against Grundy Center. BCLUW plays Saturday against Turkey Valley at Dunkerton High School.

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