Panthers bounce Hawks from 2A regionals in 5 sets

Four-year starter Anna Moss wraps up career with 14 kills in loss

A dejected South Hamilton volleyball team holds one final emotional huddle following its 3-2 loss to Central Springs in a Class 2A Region 6 quarterfinal on Monday in Jewell. The Hawks finished the season at 21-11. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

JEWELL — After 198 points, the tanks were empty. All that was left were a mixture of emotions, tears being right at the top of the list.

Four points, that’s all that separated Central Springs and South Hamilton in a Class 2A Region 6 quarterfinal on Coach Jim Marsh Court Monday night. An inch here on a smack at the back boundary line or a net cord there and it might have been a different story for the Hawks.

But sometimes sports can be cruel.

Central Springs reigned in its errors a little bit better than South Hamilton and ramped up its performance in a Set 5 race to 15, as the Panthers advanced to the semifinal round with a roller-coaster ride 3-2 victory over the Hawks.

And afterwards, South Hamilton acting head coach Amy Klemp was left to pick up the pieces.

South Hamilton senior Anna Moss celebrates a point during the third set against Central Springs on Monday. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“It was pretty emotional with our seniors,” Klemp said after Central Springs escaped with the 25-16, 13-25, 25-20, 23-25, 15-11 victory. “I just told (the players) that they don’t have anything to hang their heads about. We showed resiliency and they can all go home knowing they gave it everything they had.”

What was the difference? It came down to the minute details.

What could, and probably should, haunt South Hamilton (21-11) were the 10 missed serves, three of them coming in the final set. Just when the Hawks would reel in the momentum, a serve would seemingly crash into the net, sail long or land wide of the court. With only five ace serves to their credit, the net loss was significant.

But Central Springs (26-8) had plenty to say about the outcome. The Panthers, who avenged a 2-0 loss to South Hamilton back on the opening night of the regular season in late August, got hot early and dove all over the court to keep rallies alive. On three occasions, the Hawks started to celebrate a point they thought they won, only to have to quickly refocus as Central Springs somehow got the ball back over the net.

“It was just a momentum thing,” Klemp said. “If it swings even a little bit in close games, that can make all of the difference.”

Hawks’ senior Taylor Ratzke fights back tears in the moments after the team’s 3-2 loss to Central Springs. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Central Springs owned the opening set, which has been the Hawks’ Achilles’ heel all season long. It was 10-3 in the Panthers favor before South Hamilton was even able to dig in and the deficit was never smaller than seven the rest of the way.

South Hamilton answered the bell though and flipped the script in the second set. An early ace by Taylor Ratzke and kill by Chloe Barkema shot the Hawks out to a 7-2 lead and they led wire to wire. Anna Moss came to life with four of her team-high 14 kills in the set, three of them coming late in the stanza.

Consecutive kills by Moss, Sydney Friest and Breanne Diersen finished the set off and knotted the match at 1.

The third and fourth sets were nail-biters though, as the two teams embarked on a momentum-swinging pendulum.

There were seven ties in Set 3, but South Hamilton never led after 2-1. Ratzke and Moss kept the Hawks close with a combined seven kills, but they could never seize command.

South Hamilton libero Katie Johnson dives at the ball during the third set against Central Springs in a Class 2A Region 6 quarterfinal match on Monday in Jewell. Johnson was one of six seniors to play her final match, as South Hamilton was knocked out of the postseason in five sets. The Panthers advanced to Thursday’s regional semifinal against No. 6-ranked Lake Mills. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

The stanza was even at 19 when Central Springs rattled off four consecutive points to jump in front 23-19. A Ratzke blast stopped the bleeding momentarily, but the Panthers closed on a 6-1 run and jumped in front 2-1 on a Hannah Ausenhus running kill off a back set.

Ten more ties and eight more lead changes highlighted the fourth set, but South Hamilton was able to extend its season, albeit briefly, on the back of Moss. The senior outside hitter again took over late; a kill off the block on the outside put the Hawks in front to stay, 23-22, and she followed it up with one of her two aces.

“She’s one of the most intelligent players of knowing the game on the court,” Klemp said of Moss. “She’s a leader out there, but she’s a quiet leader.”

A Kessa Fingalsen kill from the left side pulled Central Springs within 24-23, but a long back-and-forth point finally went South Hamilton’s way on a Diersen tip to push the match to a fifth set.

Locked at 4-all, a service error by the Hawks put Central Springs in front and Fingalsen upped the lead to 6-4 with a kill.

Hawks’ junior Lily Skartvedt (5) hits around the block of Central Springs in the first set on Monday. She had nine kills on the night. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

The Panthers led 12-8 when South Hamilton put together a three-point rally that included a Barkema kill and Lily Skartvedt ace. But the third service miscue of the set was the final nail in the coffin and Central Springs closed it out on back-to-back kills by Fingalsen and Ausenhus to advance to Thursday’s regional semifinal against sixth-ranked Lake Mills (38-3).

Skartvedt finished with nine kills and Ratzke had one of her finest performances of the season with seven kills and six blocks.

“I thought Taylor Ratzke was really intense,” Klemp said. “Her (match) was one of the best she’s had in a long time … when she’s swinging hard, she’s hard to stop.”

Taylor Volkmann handed out 22 assists and Makayla Cavan distributed 14 in the loss.

Defensively, libero Katie Johnson earned plenty of floor burns en route to 21 digs. Moss registered 20 in her final match and Skartvedt added 14.

Central Springs had three players register double-digit kill totals. Fingalsen led all players with 16, Ausenhus laced 15 and Anna Dietrich bombed away for 14.

The Panthers hit .261 in the match, compared to .224 for the Hawks, and belted 18 more kills, 56-38.

South Hamilton said goodbye to six seniors — Moss, Johnson, Ratzke, Barkema, Cavan and Anna Ervin. Moss was a four-year starter — she was the team’s libero in 2015 and 2016 — and helped the Hawks accrue 79 victories.

“We’re going to miss them all,” Klemp said, “but I think the juniors we have coming back have a lot of experience and the freshmen, who I started the year with, have got a lot of talent.”

Class 2A Region 6 Quarterfinal

Monday at Jewell

Central Springs 3, South Hamilton 2

Attacks — Anna Moss 35-39, 14 kills; Lily Skartvedt 21-26, 9 kills; Taylor Ratzke 15-17, 7 kills; Breanne Diersen 9-9, 3 kills; Sydney Friest 7-7, 3 kills; Chloe Barkema 6-9, 2 kills.

Blocks — Ratzke 6, Barkema 41⁄2, Moss 3, Diersen 2, Friest 11⁄2.

Digs — Katie Johnson 21, Moss 20, Skartvedt 14, Taylor Volkmann 6, Diersen 4, Ratzke 4, Barkema 3, Makayla Cavan 3, Friest 1.

Assists — Volkmann 22, Cavan 14.

Serving — Skartvedt 20-21, 2 aces; Moss 11-12, 2 aces; Ratzke 8-11, 1 ace; Volkmann 17-17; Diersen 12-12; Johnson 9-10; Cavan 10-14.