Good to be home

JEWELL – A front-loaded Heart of Iowa Conference schedule could have been enough to make the South Hamilton volleyball team question itself.

A four-set loss to eighth-ranked (Class 4A) and 2015 state champion Nevada followed by a heartbreaking five-set loss to 13th-ranked (3A) North Polk after leading 2-1; frustrating setbacks like these would have broken some teams.

How did the Hawks answer the bell? With one haymaker after another.

Returning to the league docket for the first time since last week’s bout with North Polk and playing at home for the first time a month into the season, South Hamilton silenced the doubters by getting back to having fun in a sweep of rival Roland-Story, 25-16, 25-21, 25-15.

Plenty of familiar faces in the crowd. The constant on-court celebrations that followed a bevy of kills. The Hawks needed all of it.

“It was definitely refreshing,” South Hamilton senior setter Alissa Moss said after she distributed 10 assists in the victory. “After a couple of losses, I don’t think we ever really got down on ourselves, and beating Roland-Story in our first home match should really get us going again.”

Serve receive issues crept up early in the opening set, as the Norsemen (8-11, 3-3 HOIC) raced out to a quick 9-4 lead. But following a timeout where head coach Rusty Wintermote successfully calmed his players down, South Hamilton (16-3, 2-2 HOIC) scored six of the next seven points and finished the set on a 21-7 spurt.

“We had to get our passes together,” Moss said. “Once we got that under control we went on a run and took control.”

Wintermote said there were no magical words spoken other than a simple reminder to relax.

“It was Roland-Story, a rival and there were some nerves at the beginning,” he said. “I just told them to take a deep breath and get your passes under control, and once we did that we were fine.”

Outside bomber Ady Wintermote blasted seven of her match-high 16 kills in the opening set, including back-to-back smacks that were followed by a solo block to give the Hawks a 19-13 cushion.

Anna Moss delivered an ace and Makayla Cavan finished off the set with a pair of service winners.

South Hamilton took the lead for good at 11-10 in the second set and led by as many as seven points before Roland-Story closed to within two, 23-21. But an error on the Norsemen’s side of the net, followed by Lily Skartvedt’s fourth kill of the set pushed the Hawks to a 2-0 advantage.

The third set was knotted at 3 and again at 4, but South Hamilton never trailed. An early 5-0 run was caped by an Ady Wintermote ace to make it 9-4, and later in the stanza Emilee Wiese laced back-to-back aces to double up the Norsemen, 16-8. Roland-Story never pulled closer than six points the remainder of the way.

Ady Wintermote again owned the largest hammer, as she hit a match-high .387 and upped her season kill efficiency to .398, the seventh-best percentage among 2A hitters with 50 or more kills. She also ranks second in 2A in kills per set at 5.04.

South Hamilton hit .177 as a team and had four players contribute three or more kills. Skartvedt finished with five, Taylor Ratzke laced four in 12 chances and Breanne Diersen produced three. Taylor Volkmann dished out 17 assists.

Blocking continued to be a strength for the Hawks, who received five from Diersen and three from Ratzke to lead the way.

Anna Moss collected 10 digs from her libero position before changing jerseys to become a left-side hitter in the third set. Ady Wintermote added six digs, Katie Johnson finished with five, and Wiese and Skartvedt both had four.

South Hamilton welcomes next week’s busy schedule with conference home dates against CMB on Tuesday and PCM on Thursday.

“Our inconsistency in playing time has been a problem, at least I think so,” Rusty Wintermote said.

Alissa Moss thinks her team has a chance to finish the regular season on a strong run.

“I feel like we’ve been able to play with some ranked (3A and 4A) teams and it shows us what kind of team we can be,” she said.