WEBSTER CITY - One North Central Conference loss was OK, nothing to worry about really. It got dicey with two tumbles, but it still wasn't the end of the world.
But three, well, welcome to the end.
Webster City's hopes of defending the conference championship it won a year ago likely evaporated entirely last night inside the WCHS gym, as league-leader Iowa Falls-Alden fought off early mistakes to storm by the 13th-ranked (Class 4A) Lynx in three sets, 25-21, 25-21, 25-23.
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
Webster City junior outside hitter Kaylee Schnathorst goes on the attack from the left side of the floor during the first set against Iowa Falls-Alden last night inside the WCHS gym. The Cadets took down the 13th-ranked (Class 4A) Lynx, 3-0.
WCHS (14-9, 1-3 NCC) lost its third consecutive league tilt and sixth match in its last eight bouts. Iowa Falls-Alden (11-2, 4-0 NCC), meanwhile, made a bold statement in its run to the gold. In their first four matches, the Cadets have already dismissed the two teams - Algona and WCHS - that have won the last eight conference crowns.
"Iowa Falls is a very good team," WCHS head coach Jess Howard said. "Now we're just going to take each (match) as it comes and focus on what it takes to win against any team in the conference. Yeah, the conference title might be out of our reach right now, but we can still have a say in who does win it."
The Cadets only two losses this season came at the hands of second-ranked (4A) Charles City and fifth-ranked (4A) Waverly-Shell Rock.
Attacks - WCHS: Monica Maharry 1-1, 1 kill; Bridget Moriarty 10-13, 2 kills; Morgan Gourley 14-18, 4 kills; Kaylee Schnathorst 28-38, 11 kills; Molly Gilbert 11-16, 5 kills; Hannah Myers 7-10, 2 kills; Mikaleh McCoy 6-6, 3 kills.
Blocks - WCHS: Schnathorst 2, Gilbert 1, Myers 3, McCoy 2.
Digs - WCHS: Kaitlyn Kehoe 2, Maharry 6, Gourley 13, Ashley Price 3, Schnathorst 15, Gilbert 20, Myers 1, McCoy 1.
Assists - WCHS: Kehoe 12, Gourley 1, Price 14, Gilbert 2.
Serving - WCHS: Kehoe 8-8; Maharry 11-11; Gourley 11-11, 1 ace; Price 13-14; Schnathorst 12-13, 1 ace; Gilbert 10-11.
IF-A rallied in the first and third sets to turn what was a competitive match into an early evening. The Lynx led throughout the opening stanza by as many as six points and as late as 16-12 before the Cadets went on a 13-5 run to close it out.
In the third set, WCHS opened up a 23-21 advantage, only to watch IF-A score the final four points of the match.
Early lulls have plagued the Lynx in recent setbacks, but those rough stretches came at the end of sets last night, and Howard says that goes back to consistency.
"We've been stressing it's how you start that sets the tone and the girls did a great job of that right away," she said. "But we're still working on consistency and working on closing out matches."
It didn't help that IF-A began to utilize its superior blocking skills midway through the opening set. First-team all-conference middle Harli Janes collected two snuffs during a 6-0 stretch that put the Cadets up for the first time, 17-16, and it continued to rattle the Lynx attackers the remainder of the night.
"They did a good job of getting their hands on the ball and even when we got a kill they usually still got a touch on it," Howard said. "Volleyball is such a fast-paced sport that one little thing can turn the (match) around. Them getting one good block turned it around and I think it got in the heads of our hitters a little bit."
The opening set was tied at 19 before IF-A turned it on again, and Kylie Gerstein closed it out with a kill from the outside.
There were 14 ties in Set No. 2 until the Cadets moved ahead for good at 19-18. They notched seven of the final 10 points with Janes putting it away with a hammer from the left side of the court.
WCHS trailed throughout the early stages of the third set before making a late rally.
Junior outside hitter Kaylee Schnathorst - also a unanimous first-team all-NCC choice last year - again led the Lynx with 11 kills despite the fact that she went up against two blockers whenever the ball was set her way. She also collected 15 digs.
Molly Gilbert added five kills and a team-high 20 digs, while Morgan Gourley finished with four kills and 13 digs.
Setters Ashley Price (14) and Kaitlyn Kehoe (12) combined to register 26 assists.
WCHS will take a week off to lick its wounds before it returns to the court next Tuesday at Eagle Grove.