THRILLER IN THE DEN
Lynx rally to force 5th set, stave off match point to topple Lions
CLEAR LAKE — Exhaustion and elation, they went hand-in-hand for each and every member of the Webster City volleyball team Tuesday night.
Adalie Schwandt looked spent, both physically and emotionally. That’s what 60 swings from the front row while playing every rotation does to a player.
Alayna Finucan had floor burns on both knees, the only debate being which red splotch hurt the most.
But they were smiling. And with good reason.
WCHS walked into the Lions’ den, faced down a hostile crowd, fell behind and somehow dug deep enough to scratch and claw for nearly 21⁄2 hours for a five-set North Central Conference victory over Clear Lake.
Trailing 2-1, the Lynx (7-8, 1-1 NCC) evened the bout in the fourth set and then had three match points late in the fifth. But Clear Lake (2-6, 0-2 NCC) responded with four consecutive points to own a match point of its own. Three straight WCHS points, the last an emphatic kill from Kamry Dawson down the line on the left side of the floor, sealed the improbable win and cued the on-court celebration.
“It was just amazing,” Schwandt, the Lynx junior middle attacker who smashed a match-high 20 kills on 60 attempts, said following the 25-15, 22-25, 20-25, 25-17, 17-15 win. “Coming back to get those fourth and fifth sets, wow. We kind of had those lulls (midway through the match) and we’re trying to get rid of those, but all of the teamwork was great.”
With senior outside hitter Zoey Woodle still on the shelf with a left ankle injury, Schwandt and Dawson were again forced to carry much of the offensive burden. Schwandt also led the team in blocks with five, had 15 digs and was perfect on 15 service attempts. Dawson lashed 14 kills and hit a team-high .310 to go along with eight digs and three service aces.
That final kill, which came off a Finucan bump set from the back row, made all of the struggles worth it, Dawson said.
“Now we know we can come back,” she said. “It’s super hard sometimes because you get frustrated, but you’ve got to keep swinging.”
Schwandt and Dawson were the ammunition; Finucan was the glue that held it all together. The freshman libero, who is second in Class 4A with 184 digs, posted 33 against the Lions. Almost always in position, she kept rallies alive and set her setters and hitters up to collect points. And she did it without ever succumbing to the moment.
“I love playing under pressure, that’s fun for me,” Finucan, who also had six assists and two aces, said. “I’m so proud because we all worked together. That was amazing.”
Cynthia Whitehill delivered 25 assists and Morgan Gallentine handed out 11. The two combined for 20 digs and Atlanta Hopp added 13 more. Grace Hoversten notched five kills and two blocks.
Early on it appeared that WCHS would roll. The Lynx jumped out to a 6-1 edge and led throughout the opening set, by as many as 13 points, behind a combined seven kills from Schwandt and Dawson.
Clear Lake stepped up its presence in the second and third sets and relied on a powerful service game to take command. Without Woodle, WCHS struggled with serve receive and dunked too many out of system balls back to the Lions, who feasted.
Clear Lake took its first lead of the match at 14-13 in the second set, part of an 8-1 run, and maintained the advantage throughout the majority of the third set.
“With Zoey out right now we’ve got a lot of girls that are serve receiving that don’t necessarily serve receive in a normal situation,” WCHS head coach Jess Howard said. “After we got through sets two and three, in set four we completely owned it and were able to attack.”
Schwandt blistered three early kills in the fourth and they were followed by a 7-0 run behind the service of Dawson that put WCHS in control, 14-5. Dawson ripped two aces during the stretch.
“This is my first year serving (at the varsity level) and I feel like when I go behind the service line I have to get points every time,” Dawson said. “So that felt great.”
Schwandt finished with six kills in the fourth set, the final two in succession to put WCHS on the brink of forcing a fifth.
Two kills from Haley Foster, her only two of the night, early in the fifth set quickly gave the Lynx momentum. Whitehill used Schwandt as a decoy on both points and lofted the ball right to Foster’s arm on the perimeter.
“It was really good for Haley to have that success and know she’s capable of it,” Howard said. “They were hard-hit balls and she’s got to use that as confidence and reference it over and over again.”
It was locked at 10 before WCHS went on a 4-1 run, punctuated by a Hopp ace and Schwandt block that gave the Lynx three match points. But Clear Lake regrouped during a timeout and eventually reached a match point of its own.
The Lynx faced down the potential match-ending point to knot it at 16 and retook the lead on a Finucan ace. Moments later, Dawson was swinging away from the outside and past the block for her third kill of the set.
“That rotation we were in (at the end of the fifth set), we had a lot of youth out there,” Howard said. “They showed it to get down one point, but I thought they really grew also because they knew somebody had to step up. It was good for them to be in that situation and grow from it.”
WCHS will have ample time to rest and hopefully get Woodle back to full health before it returns to the court next Thursday against Hampton-Dumont.
Webster City 3, Clear Lake 2
Tuesday at Clear Lake
Webster City Statistics
Attacks — Adalie Schwandt 55-60, 20 kills; Kamry Dawson 24-29, 14 kills; Grace Hoversten 16-18, 5 kills; Cynthia Whitehill 3-5, 3 kills; Haley Foster 14-19, 2 kills; Morgan Gallentine 4-11, 2 kills.
Blocks — Schwandt 5, Hoversten 2, Gallentine 1.
Digs — Alayna Finucan 33, Schwandt 15, Atlanta Hopp 13, Gallentine 12, Whitehill 9, Dawson 8, Foster 8.
Assists — Whitehill 25, Gallentine 11, Finucan 6, Hopp 2, Schwandt 1.
Serving — Dawson 16-16, 3 aces; Finucan 23-24, 2 aces; Hopp 18-20, 2 aces; Whitehill 23-23, 1 ace; Schwandt 15-15; Gallentine 11-11.