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RUSTY, BUT HAPPY

Hawks swept by Cubs, but simply getting to play was enough

South Hamilton sophomore Zoey Duns (right) hits through the block set up by Nevada’s Shelbi Hazlitt (3) and Katelyn Kingsbury (12) on Tuesday in Nevada. Duns laced five kills for the Hawks, who fell to the Cubs in three sets. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

NEVADA — Kayla Schaufenbuel felt her South Hamilton volleyball team was just starting to hit its stride in early September when the dark cloud that hangs over every program unleashed a downpour right on top of her head.

COVID-19.

The Hawks went from having a solid day at the Perry Invite on Thursday, Sept. 10, to being shut down for two weeks 24 hours later after it was confirmed that a player had tested positive for COVID-19. And for 14 days, all Schaufenbuel could do was sit on her hands and silently scream.

“It was so sad and I felt so bad for all of the volleyball girls, especially the seniors,” Schaufenbuel said. “We wanted to be in the gym, but we couldn’t. Unfortunately, it was two weeks of doing nothing. They were supposed to be very limited in what they were doing.

“We played very well the last Thursday before we took those two weeks off. That was even harder to go from playing super well to being off for two weeks.”

South Hamilton celebrates a service ace during the first set against Nevada on Tuesday. It was the Hawks first match since Sept. 10 due to a COVID-19 infection that shut the program down for two weeks. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

South Hamilton was cleared to resume practices last Friday, and on Tuesday the Hawks were finally able to compete again. It was a bit rough, a lopsided 3-0 loss to Heart of Iowa Conference power Nevada, but that didn’t wipe the smiles off the players’ faces.

They were playing again. And that was enough.

“It’s kind of like starting back at square one,” Schaufenbuel said following the 25-13, 25-9, 25-16 setback against the Cubs. “But I think the girls are just excited to be back.”

With towering height in the front row and no rust to shake off, Nevada (16-11, 3-1 HOIC) controlled play from the opening point. The Cubs never trailed — in fact, there were only two ties, both occurring early in the opening set — and owned a dominant 46-16 advantage in kills. They also snuffed out eight South Hamilton attacks with blocks.

Sydney Mosinski (14 kills) and Shelbi Hazlitt (9 kills) owned the net.

South Hamilton’s Caleigh Hewitt (22) attacks the block of Nevada’s Sydney Mosinski (13) during the second set Tuesday night in Nevada. Hewitt had five kills in the Hawks first match back from a two-week hiatus due to a COVID-19 infection inside the program. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“Nevada has a great team and they played very well,” Schaufenbuel said. “That’s one of the taller teams we’ve played this year. They had a big block and their defense moved very well together. We had to change up what we were doing to just try to find open spots on the court.”

Zoey Duns and Caleigh Hewitt had five kills each for South Hamilton (7-16, 0-1 HOIC). Mackenzy Grady added three more.

Extended runs by Nevada throughout the match put the Hawks on their heels. The Cubs reeled off seven straight points to take command of the opening set and then finished it off with a 6-1 spurt.

Nevada notched the opening seven points of the second set before Hewitt briefly stopped the bleeding with a block. A Duns block, followed by a kill by the sophomore from the left side of the floor closed the gap to four points, but Nevada outscored the Hawks 16-5 the rest of the way.

South Hamilton was able to stay in relatively close contact throughout the third set. A Kaylee Oskvig ace pulled the Hawks to within 13-8, and Emma Lewis snuffed out an attack a little later to keep the deficit at five. But too much Mosinski and Hazlitt down the stretch ended the match in under an hour.

South Hamilton libero Kaylee Oskvig readies herself in the back row for a serve during Tuesday’s match against Nevada in Nevada. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

The Hawks struggled with serve receive and passing throughout the night, the clearest signs that they’re in the process of working back into playing shape. Nevada took advantage of the wobbles by smacking eight service aces.

“We struggled with defense and passing in general, but it’s definitely something we can work on,” Schaufenbuel said.

South Hamilton will get the chance to play in front of its home fans three times next Week. The Hawks will host Saydel on Monday, 12th-ranked (Class 3A) Roland-Story on Tuesday, and West Marshall on Thursday.

DFJ photo/Troy Banning

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