Redhawks notch slim sweep of Comets
CONRAD — Thrilling volleyball was on display from start to finish Thursday night between Class 1A No. 13 North Tama and host BCLUW in a non-conference battle filled with tension, back-and-forth volleys and the closest 3-0 sweep possible.
North Tama came out on top, the Redhawks moved up to 13-6 on the season with a 25-23, 27-25, 25-21 win over the Comets — who dropped down to 7-7 in frustrating fashion.
BCLUW coach Abby Stephenson wagered that key errors when attempting to close out sets doomed the Comets. She was, however, pleased with the Comets yet again putting a scare into a ranked opponent after beating Grundy Center on Tuesday and knocking them out of the rankings.
“Really good hustle plays,” Stephenson said. “It’s just kind of the final execution of how we can take care of the ball in those tight moments and make sure we stay composed with our volleyball skills the entire game.
“I think a lot of it is just minimizing our errors.”
In set one, the Comets held an early lead. But quickly, it became a back-and-forth, evenly-matched affair. Long volleys decided multiple points in the first set, and it was tightly poised throughout. BCLUW found slight breathing room late in the set, taking a 23-21 lead. It looked as though the Comets would find a way to close it out — but four straight points from North Tama gave the Redhawks a win and put the Comets on the back foot.
BCLUW responded by playing just as strong in the second set, as it once again turned into a back-and-forth match with ties at 13-13, before the Comets took a 16-13 lead. Long volleys showed up in the stats for BCLUW, as the Comets recorded 70 digs. Sydney Anderson led the way with 20, with Eden Wilson recording 18 and Kenna Paxson chipping in with 14. On defense, Allison Engle had four blocks and the duo of Eden Wilson and Katie Hill had three each.
North Tama fought back through the frontline of Jadyn Rausch, Mya Sierra and Lainey Willenbring (with Shae Dwoldt and Breanna Sebetka rotating in) and the match was tied at 22-22. The Comets scored the next two points and went up 24-22. The next point, it looked as though the Comets had taken the second set — one of the officials had given the point to BCLUW. But after a mix of joy and uproar, the score was changed and the head official took the point away, signaling a double fault and replay. The score was still 24-22.
The unexpected decision killed BCLUW’s momentum, and North Tama took advantage. The Redhawks thought they won the set 26-24 before the point was instead given to the Comets, but a crazy five-minute stretch ended with a 27-25 North Tama win.
Redhawks head coach Channing Halstead said this win was coming after all the close losses the team has had against strong opposition.
“We finally decided, you know, that we weren’t going to be on the end of that [short] stick,” Halstead said. “We’ve been on the other end of a lot of close losses, it’s kind of like one of those scenarios where it’s about time we come out on the other end of it.”
In the third set, Rausch’s aggressiveness with the ball — Halstead calls her an “offensive setter” and praised her play as “spectacular” — as well as connected passing in attacking moves gave North Tama a 17-13 advantage just over midway through the third set, one of the Redhawks’ largest leads in the entire match.
After calling a timeout, BCLUW came back to tie the set. But North Tama seized momentum one last time and pushed the gap to 24-18. Three straight points from BCLUW closed the gap, but the Redhawks finished off business — winning three sets by a total of eight points.
Halstead said the improvement in passing from the Redhawks paved the way for victory.
“We’ve been trying to clean up a lot of stuff in practice and one of our focuses was our passing,” Halstead said. “My passers, compared to what we have been passing, it was phenomenal.”
North Tama has a week off before hosting Collins-Maxwell next Thursday, while BCLUW plays in a tournament at Dunkerton Saturday.