ALIVE AND SPIKING
WEBSTER CITY – Already down a set and staring at five set points against, the Webster City volleyball team was cooked Tuesday night. We’re talking bacon sizzling on the way too hot to touch griddle cooked.
Just one more mistake and hello 0-2 hole. The match, the season, it was all likely to evaporate into nothing but memories.
But about that time something interesting occurred. The Lynx simply refused to accept their fate.
WCHS fended off those five set points and five more before the second set ended in thrilling fashion with the Lynx celebrating. The comeback catapulted WCHS towards a thrilling five-set victory over Boone in a Class 4A Region 1 semifinal, 22-25, 34-32, 25-19, 23-25, 15-9.
The match featured 219 total points played; the Lynx owned a 119-110 advantage. There were also 23 ties and 12 lead changes in the back-and-forth tug-of-war that took 2 hours, 6 minutes to complete.
“It was a lot of highs and a lot of lows,” WCHS senior libero Gianna Gourley said after accumulating a match-high 30 digs. “We just tried to keep the intensity high, yet stay relaxed so that we didn’t get too tensed up.”
WCHS (16-14) never trailed in the deciding race to 15. The eruption on the court occurred just moments after Halle Mason ripped a cross-court shot into an open area for the match-clinching point.
“It was really exciting,” WCHS senior middle hitter Olivia Myers, who piled up 17 kills, a .270 kill efficiency and six blocks, said. “Between (the fourth and fifth) sets we just kept saying that this is our game and our gym.”
Up next for the Lynx is a road trip to Sioux City on Monday to take on fourth-ranked Bishop Heelan (33-8) at 7 p.m. It will be the first WCHS appearance in a regional final since 2010 and the winner will scoop up one of the eight entries into the state tournament.
But back to that momentum-shifting second set.
WCHS began to believe when Gourley laced a service ace – one of three in the match – to pull to within two points of Boone (11-24), 24-22. Myers followed with a block and then a kill to knot it at 24.
The two teams traded the lead five more times before, finally, on the 66th point of the set, Myers blasted her eighth kill of the stanza to even the match at 1. Five of Myers’ bombs came after the Lynx evened it up at 24.
WCHS also pulled off plenty of defensive wizardry to keep points alive during the flurry.
“I told Gianna that it didn’t matter if it took us getting the biggest bruises on our bodies, everything is off the ground,” Lynx outside hitter Taylor Schnathorst said. “That set was huge.”
Winning the set was critical, there’s no doubt about that. But the fight the Lynx showed was just as important, head coach Jess Howard said.
“There was a lot of perseverance and that’s exactly what we need to see at this point in the season,” she said. “For them to stay focused, stay consistent and stay intense showed how much they wanted it.
“We have a lot of seniors on this team and a lot of leadership, but also a lot of youth. For those girls with youth to stay focused and not buckle in that situation was huge to see.”
Schnathorst cracked 20 kills on the night to lead the Lynx, and she also produced 17 digs. Mason came up with 13 digs to go along with three kills. Cassidy Nerland added six kills and Kamry Dawson finished with four.
Sarah Vogelbacher distributed 28 assists, while Courtney Lampman handed out 21 to go along with seven digs, three kills and three aces. Cynthia Whitehill cranked out two aces of her own.
Aided by five kills from Schnathorst, WCHS led the third set wire-to-wire. But Boone showed grit of its own by storming back to take the fourth set. The Toreadors took the lead for good at 9-8 and built their cushion to as many as five points.
Trailing 24-19 once again, the Lynx attempted one more improbable comeback and closed to within 24-23 on back-to-back Lampman aces. But Boone got the point it needed to force a fifth set.
Schnathorst, Myers and Mason all laced two kills in the closing set.
Now assured of a winning record, WCHS will go in search of an upset on Monday against a Crusaders team that has won five straight matches and eight of their last nine. They took care of LeMars in less dramatic fashion, 3-0, in their semifinal on Tuesday.
“We really are the underdog,” Schnathorst said. “But a lot of teams overlook us. Hopefully we can feed off of their mistakes.”