A CLEAN SWEEP
WEBSTER CITY – Coasting to victory, particularly in a best 3-of-5 sets contest, is something that eluded the Webster City volleyball team throughout the regular season.
But there’s no time like the present to change that narrative.
Aggressive early in sets and dominant for the majority of the match, the Lynx kicked off the postseason with a convincing 3-0 sweep of Storm Lake, 25-9, 25-12, 25-18, in a Class 4A Region 1 quarterfinal inside the WCHS gymnasium Wednesday night.
It was only the second time that Webster City had gone the minimum number of sets in a regulation match this season, the other being a 3-0 loss to North Central Conference champion Humboldt last month.
Could this be the new and improved Lynx (15-14)? Everyone associated with the team hopes so as they begin preparations to tackle Boone (11-23) in the regional semifinal round on Tuesday back in Webster City.
“We were just staying aggressive and playing to the best of our abilities,” WCHS senior setter Courtney Lampman said after distributing 17 assists to go along with two kills on quick tips and a service ace. “I think we just went out there and did what we knew we could do.”
A clear sign that the match was in control? Lynx head coach Jess Howard didn’t use a single timeout, compared to the maximum six that Storm Lake head coach Kim Johnson called.
“Yeah, I don’t ever remember that happening,” Howard said about the timeout situation while chuckling. “It was just good to see our girls play at our tempo for most of the match. In that third game we got a little sloppy with how we were carrying out our offense, but the girls did what they needed to do to get the win.”
WCHS hit .202 on the night with 33 kills and a large number of its 15 attack errors came in the final set. There was just one wobble at net in the opening set when the Lynx stormed out to a quick 6-0 lead and led by as many as 17 points at 22-5. They used the same playbook in the second set by notching nine of the first 10 points en route to another wire-to-wire victory.
“In girls sports, if you can get out right away and have control and confidence in the game, you play much stronger,” Howard said. “It makes the other team second-guess themselves.”
It helped that WCHS was able to spread the offensive wealth. Seven players finished with multiple kills; Taylor Schnathorst led the way with 10, while Olivia Myers laced seven in just 12 chances. Devyn VanKooten came off the bench to supply four kills and Kamry Dawson matched her output. Halle Mason chipped in three.
Lampman and Sarah Vogelbacher (11 assists) were the offensive architects and their jobs were made easier by the aggressive swings of so many players.
“Yes, that makes my job way easier,” Lampman said. “Everyone had a lot of confidence and it pumps up the entire team when someone gets a good kill.”
“The setters did a very good job of identifying who was open and where their blocks were at and where their defense was set up,” Howard said.
The play of Dawson and VanKooten helped to alleviate some of the pressure heaped upon the shoulders of Schnathorst and Myers.
“Both of those girls took advantage of the balls that were set to them and they kept fast arms and swung smart,” Howard said.
Dawson registered both of her blocks in the speedy first set and Myers took over from there and finished with a match-high six.
Cassidy Nerland smacked her two kills in rapid succession in the second set. Schnathorst finished it off with a kill from the perimeter, followed by a solo block.
WCHS kicked off the third set with a 5-1 run, but Storm Lake (3-23) had some success blocking and pulled to as close as 13-11 before slinking away. Myers collected two of her rejections during a late 8-0 run and later added an emphatic kill to get her team within two points of the sweep.
Libero Gianna Gourley led the Lynx in digs (16) and service aces (three). Schnathorst added 12 digs, Mason finished with nine and Vogelbacher contributed eight.
WCHS and Boone locked horns at the Forest City Invite back on Sept. 17 and the Lynx came out on top, but just barely, 28-26, 17-25, 17-15. In other words, both teams have their work cut out for them on Tuesday.
“It will be hard, but I know we can do it,” Lampman said. “We just have to set our minds to it.”