GOOD GOLLY, MISS MOLLY
WEBSTER CITY – One teammate would step away from Molly Gilbert and another would take her place as the sweaty, yet elated members of the Webster City volleyball team congregated around the net late Thursday inside the Lynx Gymnasium.
And when the players were done there were fans standing at the edge of the court trying to get Gilbert’s attention. The statistical carnage the senior outside hitter unleashed wasn’t even known yet, but players and fans alike knew they’d witnessed something special.
Take a curtain call, Molly Gilbert. You earned it.
All Gilbert did was spank a career-high 29 kills against just seven errors in 61 chances – a kill efficiency of .361 – and pile up 23 digs to help carry WCHS across the finish line in a five-set prize fight against eighth-ranked (Class 3A) and North Central Conference leader Iowa Falls-Alden.
With the Lynx leading 16-15 in the deciding set and trying to close out the Cadets for the third time, it was fitting that Gilbert’s number was called. From the left side of the floor, she slid a shot past a double block and down the line to give WCHS the 14-25, 25-18, 19-25, 25-17, 17-15 victory.
“I told you it was a must win and I meant it,” Gilbert said, referring to her comment after Tuesday’s four-set win over Clarion-Goldfield. “This win means everything to us and I just hope we can keep playing like that.”
The win propelled WCHS (14-10, 4-1 NCC) into a virtual four-way tie atop the NCC with the Cadets (17-6, 4-1), Humboldt (15-4, 3-1) and Algona (23-7, 3-1). The Lynx still have to face Algona, while IF-A and Humboldt will also meet later this month.
WCHS and IF-A shared the league championship a season ago and they could be on course for a repeat after their latest battle that included 22 ties and 10 lead changes over more than two hours of court time. Ten of the deadlocks came in the fifth set, the last at 15-all.
“I’m sure that was a very fun match to watch from the stands, but it was stressful as a coach,” WCHS head coach Jess Howard said.
Gilbert was at her best when WCHS needed her the most. Down 1-0, she put the team on her back in the second set with eight kills. She had eight more in the must-win fourth set and capped it off with four in the fifth set.
She was elated, there’s no doubt. But she wasn’t about to take all the credit for the upset.
“I had some flaws, but you’re always going to have some in a match,” Gilbert said. “The team really helped me when I got down, so this is everyone’s win.”
She’s not wrong.
WCHS received contributions from everyone that entered the bout. Hannah Myers delivered 16 kills and hit .297 to go along with four crucial blocks; she was on top of her game in the final set as well with four kills and two snuffs, the last giving the Lynx a 12-11 edge.
Libero Gianna Gourley flew all over the back row to collect 29 digs. Reserve Kenzie Garvey stepped into the spotlight and produced 20 digs. Setter Taylor Schnathorst orchestrated it all and tallied 56 assists.
Alex Dinsdale had seven kills. Mikaleh McCoy registered four kills and two blocks. Carly Jacobson was the team’s most potent server. The list goes on and on …
“We had a lot of girls play really well,” Howard said.
WCHS needed it all to withstand the relentless attack of the Cadets and their all-state hitter Kelsey Redmond. Not tall by any stretch of the imagination, Redmond showed off her hops and intimidating attacks throughout and peeled off a match-high 40 kills. She notched 10 in the opening set, 11 in the third set and six in the finale after injuring her ankle early in the stanza.
IF-A fought off two match points on Redmond blasts before its luck eventually ran out.
“She’s one of the best hitters in the state and she played great,” Howard said of Redmond.
Myers and Gilbert received the difficult – perhaps even impossible – assignment of neutralizing Redmond. Myers didn’t win a lot of the battles, but she made a key rejection in the fourth set and another in the fifth to give the Lynx needed shots of adrenaline at crucial moments.
“Whenever I get the big block I always freak out,” Myers said. “When that happens the whole team gets up and the adrenaline keeps pumping.”
Both Myers and Gilbert praised Redmond’s play.
“She’s the best player we’ve seen,” Gilbert said. “There’s no doubt about it; she can hit over our blocks and she can hit around them. It was tough.”
“Every time you adjust to her she adjusts right back,” Myers said.
A pair of Redmond kills ignited a 4-0 run that gave IF-A its first lead of the fifth set, 8-7. The Cadets eventually led 10-8, and for the last time at 11-10.
WCHS will have a few days to soak in the win before it prepares for next Thursday’s non-conference road date against former NCC rival and 11th-ranked (Class 1A) Algona Bishop Garrigan.
The Lynx will close out the conference schedule at Clear Lake on Tuesday, Oct. 14, and then finally at home against Algona on Tuesday, Oct. 21. A win over the Lions would put WCHS on the doorstep of a third conference title in the last four years.