WCHS overcomes shaky start to knock off Garrigan in 5 sets

Webster City senior Grace Hoversten (8) takes an angle to hit around the block for one of her team-high 19 kills in the Lynx 3-2 victory over Algona Garrigan in a non-conference volleyball match inside the WCHS gymnasium Monday night. Webster City improved to 17-11 on the season with the win. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WEBSTER CITY — Faith Anderson had only three of the 108 kills that were hammered to the hardwood inside the WCHS gymnasium Monday night.

But in this instance, the old adage of quality over quantity rings true.

Already trailing by a set and staring at another set point against, WCHS was in jeopardy of falling in a 2-0 hole against non-conference opponent Algona Garrigan. And that’s when Anderson stepped up and left her impression on the match.

Anderson’s blast past the block from the right side tied the stanza at 25 and the Lynx went on to take the set and even the match — a reprieve they carried for a marathon 3-2 victory.

What happens if Anderson’s attack splashes into the net and Garrigan goes up 2-0? WCHS head coach Jess Howard is glad that’s only a what-if scenario.

WCHS sophomore libero Alayna Finucan (back) gets her hand under the ball just before it touches the ground for one of her match-high 33 digs against Algona Garrigan as teammate Haley Foster watches Monday night. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“The perseverance we showed was huge,” Howard said following the 20-25, 28-26, 25-20, 24-26, 15-11 triumph. “It’s hard coming back like that, but I thought the girls played strong. From the beginning to the end in Game 5, we controlled it and kept our legs better than they kept theirs.”

WCHS (17-11) never trailed in the race to 15. Two kills and a block by Grace Hoversten early on helped to catapult the Lynx to a 6-1 advantage and Garrigan (16-9) never pulled closer than two points the remainder of the way. Adalie Schwandt took over during the latter stages of the set with three kills in a five-point flurry and she added a fourth off a short set to up the WCHS advantage to 11-7.

Morgan Gallentine rattled off the final two terminations for the Lynx, including the match-ender from the right side of the floor.

Hoversten was the primary weapon for WCHS, as the senior middle hitter connected for 19 kills. Schwandt produced 14 — she hit a team-high .204 with just four miscues in 49 swings — and Gallentine ripped off eight kills when she wasn’t orchestrating the offense as the setter, where she doled out 25 assists.

At times, the WCHS front row was dominant. But too often, particularly early in the match, the attackers sprayed balls long of the boundary. The Lynx piled up 31 errors and hit just .109 as a team.

WCHS senior Adalie Schwandt goes on the attack from the middle of the floor during the opening set against Algona Garrigan on Monday. Schwandt blasted 14 kills in the Lynx 3-2 victory over the Golden Bears. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“We were just a little slow either getting off the net or getting into the ball,” Howard said. “We were hitting and getting our hips in front of it, and the same thing was happening when we were blocking too, our hips were in front of us and we were letting the ball control our hands. When it goes off our hands like that, it throws off our defense completely. But I thought we adjusted really well after Game 2.”

Haley Foster lashed three of her six kills in a third set that WCHS took control of with a 5-0 run midway through. Foster recorded one of her two service aces to help expand the lead, as the Lynx jumped ahead 2-1.

The Lynx improved in the front row as the match progressed, but their real strength came in the back row courtesy of libero Alayna Finucan, as well as Foster and reserve Kelly Stoakes. The trio combined for 75 digs — 33 by Finucan, the Class 4A leader, 27 by Foster and 15 for Stoakes.

Garrigan had plenty of offensive weaponry, keyed by the powerful swing of Katie Noonan and her match-high 24 kills. Noonan supplied the Golden Bears with a .323 kill efficiency.

But more often than not, Finucan won the battle against the opposing attackers. Whether she was diving on the floor or sprinting towards the bleachers to club the ball with one arm back into play, she and Foster kept the Golden Bears at bay.

Webster City celebrates a kill by freshman Reese Casey (15) during its 3-2 victory over Algona Garrigan on Monday. The Lynx rallied from a set down and saved two set points in the second set to improve to 17-11 on the season. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“I just try to follow her because I know she’ll get a touch on it. I know it,” Foster said of her back-court partner Finucan. “She definitely pushes everyone to get better.”

It’s not just Finucan’s ability to keep rallies alive that are so imperative, Howard said. It’s also her ability to frustrate the opposing team that works to the Lynx advantage.

“Her natural ball skills and knowing where to get her body are huge and it works to our advantage,” Howard said. “It keeps us going. It keeps us strong offensively and it keeps (the opponent) second-guessing what’s going on. When teams start to second-guess themselves, that’s when they start to make mistakes.”

Garrigan was forced to rally in the fourth set and it went to Noonan at crunch time. She pounded the ball cross-court to break a 24-all tie and then roasted another liner past the block on the next point to force the fifth set.

The back-and-forth battle included 30 ties and 15 lead changes.

Webster City setter Jenna Miller receives a serve during the Lynx 3-2 win over Algona Garrigan on Monday. Miller had 22 assists in the match. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Gallentine gave WCHS four players with double-digit digs, as she registered 13. Jenna Miller chipped in eight to go along with 22 assists.

The Lynx put up nine service aces; Gallentine and Finucan joined Foster with two.

WCHS now faces a juggernaut closing stretch to the regular season, starting with a road date against No. 8-ranked (Class 2A) and North Central Conference leader Clarion-Goldfield-Dows Thursday night in Clarion. The Lynx will then take part in the always formidable Hampton-Dumont tournament on Saturday, followed by a Senior Night clash against 14th-ranked (3A) Humboldt on Tuesday.

But WCHS sees this upcoming stretch as an opportunity rather than a burden.

“We play better against better teams, so we’re looking forward to it,” Foster said.

Webster City 3, Algona Garrigan 2

Monday at Webster City

Attacks — Grace Hoversten 44-54, 19 kills; Adalie Schwandt 45-49, 14 kills; Morgan Gallentine 20-23, 8 kills; Haley Foster 24-33, 6 kills; Faith Anderson 12-15, 3 kills; Reese Casey 6-8, 1 kill; Alayna Finucan 2-2.

Blocks — Hoversten 3, Casey 21⁄2, Anderson 1, Gallentine 1⁄2.

Digs — Finucan 33, Foster 27, Kelly Stoakes 15, Gallentine 13, Jenna Miller 8, Hoversten 7, Casey 5, Schwandt 4, Anderson 1.

Assists — Gallentine 25, Miller 22, Finucan 4.

Serving — Gallentine 23-23, 2 aces; Finucan 19-20, 2 aces; Foster 16-19, 2 aces; Schwandt 14-14, 1 ace; Miller 16-18, 1 ace; Hoversten 17-18.