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THAT WAS CLOSE

LYNX SURVIVE IN 5 AGAINST BOONE, ADVANCE

Alayna Finucan (3) and Alley Odland celebrate following a long point during Webster City’s 3-2 win over Boone on Tuesday. They combined for 49 digs in the Class 4A Region 5 quarterfinal. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

BOONE — The drama was high, the intensity palpable. The celebration, however, was muted, devoid of echoing screams and a furious round of hugs in the center of the court.

Make no mistake, the Webster City volleyball team was excited to get through its postseason opener Tuesday night, but the overriding emotion was relief after a two-plus hour ride on a roller coaster that was littered with peaks and valleys.

It was rarely pretty, but the Lynx mustered the resolve necessary down the stretch to send Boone packing in five sets in a Class 4A Region 5 quarterfinal. The two teams traded sets through four, but it was all WCHS in the fifth for a 25-20, 18-25, 25-18, 12-25, 15-4 victory.

“In that fifth set we were all playing with a sense of urgency, and we just knew we had to go now,” WCHS junior libero Alayna Finucan said after she flung herself all over the floor on her way to 34 digs. “I knew they were super scrappy and so are we; we’re kind of like the same team in a way. So I knew it was going to be a lot of long rallies and it was who was scrappier, honestly.”

WCHS (14-14), which advanced to tonight’s regional semifinal at No. 10-ranked Gilbert, never trailed in the fifth set. It was 5-3 when senior Leah Kasch stepped onto the floor and walked to the service line.

Webster City’s Faith Anderson (11) and Reese Casey (8) set up the block during the first set against Boone on Tuesday in Boone. The Lynx survived the Class 4A Region 5 quarterfinal in five sets to advance to tonight’s semifinal round. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

She never left.

Kasch, a senior, served out the final eight points, part of a 9-0 Lynx flurry to cap the contest. Younger sister Livia Kasch, a sophomore, played a key role as well with four kills during the stanza, and she finished with a team-high 11.

An ace, a kill by Livia Kasch, and another service winner by Leah Kasch, closed it out.

“Both of those girls did great,” WCHS head coach Jess Howard said. “Leah, for keeping her composure because we can’t always utilize her the way we want. For her to come out in Game 5 and set the tone was huge, and that’s just the leader she is on the court. And Liv did a great job of not showing her youth and attacking.”

It was exactly what WCHS needed, particularly after a lackluster fourth set in which Boone ripped off the initial eight points and was never threatened. Only Reese Casey had more than one kill in the set, and the errors piled up.

Webster City head coach Jess Howard (center) has an intense conversation with her team during a timeout early in the third set against Boone on Tuesday in Boone. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“We knew for sure that if we didn’t bring the intensity up (in the fifth set), we wouldn’t have had a chance at winning,” Livia Kasch said. “So it was really important that we were talking.”

It was a struggle for WCHS throughout the contest, particularly up front where the Lynx made 60 errors and finished the night with a negative kill efficiency (-.078). Boone (7-24) had plenty to do with that though and libero Kinsie Zinnel was the main protagonist. She constantly got an arm on the ball and never allowed the WCHS hitters to get comfortable.

And Finucan played a similar role on the other side of the net, which led to a lot of long rallies and plenty of swings that either sailed wide or long.

“They kind of controlled the match,” Howard said of the rival liberos. “Their libero did a great job of keeping our hitters frustrated and that was a big part of us not swinging the way we normally do. But for the girls to keep their composure and be able to come out in Game 5 and start playing, finally, the way we normally do was huge. It’s good to see them do that at this point in the season.”

But it wasn’t just Finucan that kept WCHS afloat. Back row mates Kelly Stoakes (19 digs) and Alley Odland (15 digs) were equally effective. Joslin Gourley (14) and Jenna Miller (12) also reached double-digit dig totals.

WCHS setter Jenna Miller (16) attempts to keep the ball in play during Tuesday’s regional match against Boone. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“You saw all of those girls getting after it,” Howard said. “They were all on the floor, they were throwing their bodies around and they popped right back up to get to the next ball if they needed to.”

Faith Anderson added 10 kills in the win, half of them coming in an opening set that WCHS was forced to rally back from an early deficit to prevail. The Lynx didn’t take their first lead until 13-12 on a blast from the outside by Sierra Rattenborg, who finished with eight kills in the match.

Casey chipped in seven kills and Gourley collected six to go along with a team-high 17 assists.

Tied at 1, Boone seized the upper hand early in the third set, prompting a quick timeout by Howard. The huddle lasted less than 10 seconds as she implored her team to wake up, and the players responded with a 9-1 spurt to take control.

The Toreadors eventually closed to within a point, 16-15, but WCHS answered with four consecutive points, started by one of Rattenborg’s four kills in the stanza. The sophomore southpaw also ripped off a pair of aces late and Casey closed it out with a tip kill.

Lynx junior Kelly Stoakes dives for a tipped ball on Tuesday. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WCHS held a 95-92 advantage in match points. But despite the seemingly tight affair, the sets were mostly anti-climactic. There were only 10 ties and just four lead changes on the night, and the team that got ahead stayed ahead in the final two sets.

Now 2-0 in five-set clashes this season, WCHS knows it will have to be at the top of its game this evening against Raccoon River Conference champion Gilbert (24-9). The Tigers are led by all-state senior Thea Rotto, one of the leading hitters in the class with 278 kills.

“We’re going to have to be super scrappy and we’ll have to put the ball down,” Finucan said.

The Lynx have played some of their better matches this season against ranked teams, Howard said, and although they haven’t been able to pull off an upset yet, she hopes there’s a first time for everything.

Class 4A Region 5 Quarterfinal

Webster City 3, Boone 2

Tuesday at Boone

Attacks — Livia Kasch 19-37, 11 kills; Faith Anderson 33-48, 10 kills; Sierra Rattenborg 29-42, 8 kills; Reese Casey 18-26, 7 kills; Joslin Gourley 18-21, 6 kills; Jenna Miller 3-4, 2 kills; Alayna Finucan 5-5, 1 kill; Lexi Nichols 8-10.

Blocks — Gourley 1, Nichols 1.

Digs — Finucan 34, Kelly Stoakes 19, Alley Odland 15, Gourley 14, Miller 12, Anderson 8, Rattenborg 6, Casey 3, Li. Kasch 3, Leah Kasch 2.

Assists — Gourley 17, Miller 14, Finucan 7.

Serving — Rattenborg 6-8, 2 aces; Le. Kasch 13-13, 1 ace; Odland 22-23, 1 ace; Finucan 20-20; Miller 10-11; Stoakes 9-10; Gourley 7-10.

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