THE LAST LAUGH

WEBSTER CITY – Molly Gilbert and Hannah Myers are so much more than simply the muscle behind Webster City’s varied front row attack on the volleyball court.

They can waylay the ball, there’s no doubt about that. Myers does it with quick, thunderous strikes from the middle; if the block isn’t set up perfectly, there’s very little the defense can do when she puts her right arm into action. Gilbert does it with precision on the perimeter; her ability to go around the block to all areas of the floor makes her a challenge to slow down.

But besides their physical attributes, the two Webster City seniors are the team’s heartbeat. The Lynx go as they go.

“The team follows us,” Gilbert said. “If we’re down then the team is down, but if we’re up so is the team.”

They weren’t just up on Tuesday. They were soaring.

Gilbert and Myers lambasted 17 kills a piece to help Webster City avenge a pair of previous losses to Clarion-Goldfield-Dows.

The Cowgirls may have won the battles at two regular-season tournaments, but the Lynx won the North Central Conference war in four sets, 25-17, 24-26, 25-14, 25-20.

“We have a lot more energy during (conference) matches than we do at tournaments,” Gilbert said. “Both times we played them before was late in the day, but (Tuesday) night we got on them right away and had a lot of energy.”

WCHS (13-10, 3-1 NCC) stayed in the hunt for back-to-back league titles, while the Cowgirls (18-10, 1-2) slipped further away from consideration.

Lynx head coach Jess Howard tweaked her rotation to give her team the edge by assuring that either Myers or Gilbert would always be in the front row.

“We moved our hitters around so we’re working with a stronger front row at all times,” Howard said. “We were able to keep it aggressive, and when one person does something good it makes it easier for the next person to build off that.”

Alex Dinsdale laced seven kills and hit a team-best .400. Mikaleh McCoy was a force as well with six kills.

WCHS piled up 52-28 edge in kills and hit .209 as a team compared to .023 for the Cowgirls.

The Lynx pressure offense put CGD back on its heels from the opening point. Of the 175 points played, the Cowgirls led for just six of them. There were 18 ties.

WCHS never trailed in any of the three sets it won. The Cowgirls rallied from a 23-20 deficit in the second set, otherwise it would have been a sweep.

“We’ve been working on getting a lead and trying to push it because we never finish,” Gilbert said. “When we saw them win the second (set) we knew we could come out again and get after it.”

A 4-0 run midway through the opening set put WCHS in the driver’s seat for good and the Lynx closed on a 8-3 spurt to win going away. Gilbert’s only ace of the match moved it to set point and Myers blasted away from the outside to end it.

Back-to-back kills by Dinsdale and Myers shoved WCHS ahead 23-20 in the second set, but the Cowgirls quickly answered with four straight points coming out of a timeout. A kill from the wing by Sydney Terhark put the Cowgirls ahead to stay.

The two teams traded points early in the third set. It was 9-8 in the Lynx favor when they seized the upper hand and they closed on a 16-6 run. Myers and Gilbert both blasted four kills during the set.

The final set was much of the same; Gilbert took over with six kills, including the match-clincher from the right side of the floor.

Setter Taylor Schnathorst kept CGD guessing throughout the bout with back sets, quick sets and perfect passes across the court en route to 45 assists.

“I thought the defense did a really good job of giving Taylor something to work with,” Howard said, “and the front row did a good job of going after it aggressively.”

Gilbert expended quite a bit of energy in the back row and came up with a match-high 29 digs, but it didn’t seem to slow her down. Libero Gianna Gourley added 15 to go along with two aces, and Kenzie Garvey came off the bench to supply 10 digs.

Celeste Swanson and Terhark paced the Cowgirls with seven and six kills, respectively.

WCHS will face an even tougher test tonight when it welcomes 10th-ranked (Class 3A) Iowa Falls-Alden to the Lynx gymnasium. The Cadets (17-5, 4-0 NCC) are the last unbeaten team in league play and feature a fierce front row keyed by powerhouse senior Kelsey Redmond, who has 240 kills and a .448 efficiency so far this season.

“We always look forward to playing Iowa Falls because it’s a challenge,” Gilbert said. “We know we’re a contender.”

WCHS and IF-A shared the league championship last fall.

Is tonight’s match a must win for the Lynx? Gilbert had a quick answer.

“Yes,” she said.