Cubs A Real Bear

JEWELL – Quick sets, back sets, slide slams and vicious serves – Will Baumann’s school colors may have changed, but his coaching philosophies remain the same.

And it looks like he has another juggernaut on his hands.

In his first year at the helm of the Nevada volleyball program, Baumann – the architect of seven consecutive state tournament appearances and five Class 1A state championships at Tripoli from 2006-2013 – has a team that sits at No. 5 in the rankings (Class 3A) and on top of the Heart of Iowa Conference, now all alone after the Cubs torpedoed South Hamilton in three sets, 25-21, 25-10, 25-19, Tuesday night on Coach Jim Marsh Court.

With junior middle hitter Kati Cassabaum swinging away and providing a little bit of intimidation with her blocking ability, Nevada (16-4, 5-0 HOIC) withstood South Hamilton’s best punch in the opening set, and then dominated the second set and most of the third set before the Hawks valiant comeback effort came up short.

“We had that emotional edge and floor presence in the first game, but in game two we just let them get on a couple rolls and I think we got a little discouraged and stopping hitting hard,” South Hamilton head coach Cindy Holmes said. “So we’re just working to build that consistency.”

There were six ties and four lead changes in set No. 1. South Hamilton (12-5, 4-1 HOIC) went on an early 8-0 spurt to jump ahead, but Nevada responded by scoring five of the next six points to knot it at 10.

South Hamilton’s final lead came at 18-17 on Ady Wintermote’s fifth kill of the stanza. The Cubs reeled off eight of the final 11 points to strike first.

The Hawks’ imaginary bubble burst with the opening set loss, as Nevada never trailed again. The Cubs ripped off four consecutive points at the onset of set No. 2 and later went on a 10-0 run to extend the margin to 16-4.

A Cassabaum kill off a quick pass ended the set. It was vintage Baumann, who was known for his fast-paced, diverse offense at Tripoli; setter Michaela Matuska tossed up a short set over her shoulder and Cassabaum raced around from the middle to swat the untouched blast from the right side.

“It’s a really nice offense,” Holmes said. “The slide with (Cassabaum) is very effective and it’s hard for the block to stay disciplined on the cross-court swing because the middle is moving out. They definitely kept our blockers on their toes.”

A 9-0 run to open the third set put Nevada on victory’s doorstep. The Cubs eventually extended the cushion to 19-9 before South Hamilton came to life on the strength of its own blocking game. Wintermote and Tiffany Jacobson both brought the home crowd back into the match with snuffs and the Hawks eventually climbed to within 22-19.

Nevada rattled off the final three points though and – who else? – Cassabaum was in position to end it with a thunderous kill from the right side of the floor.

Wintermote was shut down over the final two sets and finished with five kills. Jacobson added three, while freshmen Anna Moss and Taylor Ratzke chipped in two each.

Wintermote and Jacobson both collected four blocks. Avery Klemp rejected three.

South Hamilton played without junior outside hitter Alyssa Hegland – one of the team’s biggest offensive weapons – because of illness. But neither Holmes nor her players were using the absence as an excuse.

“(Hegland) plays all the way around and she has a great floor presence, but I’m proud of her and the kids for not talking about that and just running a new lineup,” Holmes said after her team managed just 12 kills against 15 attack errors. “However, the reality of it is we have relied on her a lot offensively, so there was a lot to adjust to.”

Wintermote also came up with a team-high 11 digs, one more than Anna Moss. Kenzie Busch contributed seven digs and nine assists, while libero Josie Hyland notched six digs.

South Hamilton will get back to work in practice to prepare for next Tuesday’s league showdown with rival Roland-Story.