Humboldt foils No. 14 Lynx NCC title plans

Webster City senior libero Alayna Finucan celebrates a point during the opening set against Humboldt Tuesday night. The Lynx suffered their first NCC setback and likely saw their league title hopes vanish, as Humboldt rolled to a 3-0 victory. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WEBSTER CITY — One of the toughest lessons for a young child to learn is the difference between wanting something and earning something. It’s easy to want, but much more difficult to earn.

For the better part of the past 12 months, the members of the Webster City volleyball team have wanted to win a North Central Conference championship. It’s flooded their thoughts and conversations, and motivated them in practice.

But on Tuesday, Humboldt went out and earned it.

No. 14-ranked (Class 4A) WCHS didn’t play poorly on its home floor with a large crowd in attendance, but Humboldt was simply better, as it seized the upper-hand in the race for the league championship with a 3-0 sweep of the Lynx.

And let’s be honest, this was for the league hardware. The season is only half over, and yet Humboldt and WCHS have clearly established themselves as the front-runners, which left the Lynx tasting bitterness following the 25-20, 25-14, 26-24 loss.

WCHS sophomore hitter Adeline Tesdahl (7) goes on the attack from the outside against Humboldt on Tuesday. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“Anytime you lose, it hurts. But knowing what this game meant, it hurts a little more,” WCHS head coach Jess Howard said afterward. “But we’ve got to take this in stride and control what we can control going forward.

“Humboldt is very good and we knew that coming in.”

Humboldt (20-4, 3-0 NCC) captured its ninth consecutive win over WCHS (12-5, 3-1 NCC) by being stronger on the attack and by utilizing a quick defensive back row that didn’t let many balls hit the floor. The Wildcats compiled 10 more kills (44-34), had a better kill efficiency (.173 to .136) and collected three more blocks (7-4).

But it was the Wildcats’ back row, keyed by libero Jennika Beach with 28 digs, that gave WCHS the most fits. Even when passes were crisp and sets were on point, too many times Beach was there to keep the ball off the floor.

“Honestly, their back row players were more of a pain for us than anything,” Howard said. “We had a lot of hard hit balls that they were able to pop up and they just kept it going until it dropped on our side of the court.”

The Webster City volleyball team lays in a circle moments after taking the court for warm ups inside the WCHS gymnasium Tuesday night. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WCHS collected two more digs though (74-72), senior libero and program digs leader Alayna Finucan the main reason why. She took on Humboldt’s powerful and balanced front row and compiled 26 digs, while Joslin Gourley and Alley Odland pitched in 11 each. Kelly Stoakes added 10 more.

“We knew what their hitters could do and (Finucan) did a great job of reading their hitters in terms of where the ball was going,” Howard said.

The early moments of the first and second sets proved to be the Lynx downfall. Humboldt went on an early 8-1 run in the first set and led 10-3 before the Lynx were able to regroup and make it competitive. The Wildcats scored 11 of the opening 15 points in set No. 2 and never let WCHS any closer the remainder of the way.

“We just waited too long to starting attacking in both of the sets and it made it so we were constantly trying to dig out of a hole,” Howard said. “So much is important in that start.”

A block by Livia Kasch, followed by a Sierra Rattenborg kill drew WCHS even at 15 in the opening set, but Humboldt answered with a 4-0 run to reclaim control. The Lynx were able to save one set point, but a blast from the perimeter by Tayla Wempen gave Humboldt the 1-0 lead.

Webster City’s Abby Gallentine (9) and Reese Casey (13) attempt to block the attack of Humboldt’s Marissa Kaufman (11) on Tuesday. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Both of the Wildcats’ service aces came early in the second set. They utilized serves as weapons throughout the match and too often they got WCHS out of system where it was forced to tip rather than attack.

“They’ve got very aggressive, consistent servers and that’s a really important part for them,” Howard said.

A better start to the third set enabled WCHS to stay competitive throughout, as there were 14 ties and seven lead changes. Rattenborg bashed seven of her team-high 12 kills in the set, including three in the opening nine points.

Humboldt opened up a 23-18 lead before WCHS responded with a 5-0 spurt to even it at 23. A Marissa Kaufman tip kill gave the Wildcats their first match point, but Kasch delayed their celebration with a blast from the left side. Kaufman answered with her own bullet from the middle for a second match point and Shelbie Heinz ended it with a tip after a Lynx pass to the front row drifted to the net.

Reese Casey had another efficient night at net for WCHS with eight kills and a .368 kill efficiency. Kasch added five more and Abby Gallentine chipped in three.

Lynx junior Joslin Gourley keeps a Humboldt smash off the floor with a flick forward on Tuesday. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

But the Wildcats’ trio of Kaufman, Addie Thompson and Heinz was simply too powerful. Kaufman lashed a match-high 13 kills and hit .458. Thompson ripped 11 and Heinz dropped in nine to go along with a match-best .529 kill efficiency.

Heinz also had 31⁄2 of the Wildcats’ blocks.

Gourley delivered 25 of the Lynx 30 assists, while Finucan handed out the other five. Finucan also had the Lynx lone ace serve.

WCHS will have plenty of time to ruminate on the loss and then put it in the rearview mirror before it returns to the court. The Lynx won’t play again until Saturday, Oct. 2, when they compete in the Madrid tournament.

“We have to come back strong from this and learn from it,” Howard said. “We have to take every single game as a chance to get better.”

Humboldt 3, WCHS 0

Tuesday at Webster City

Attacks — Sierra Rattenborg 35-43, 12 kills; Reese Casey 18-19, 8 kills; Livia Kasch 17-19, 5 kills; Adeline Tesdahl 11-16, 3 kills; Abby Gallentine 6-7, 3 kills; Joslin Gourley 2-2, 2 kills; Alayna Finucan 1-1, 1 kill; Alley Odland 1-2; Delainey Bargfrede 0-2.

Blocks — Rattenborg 1, Kasch 1, Gallentine 1, Gourley 1⁄2, Casey 1⁄2.

Assists — Gourley 25, Finucan 5.

Digs — Finucan 26, Odland 11, Gourley 11, Kelly Stoakes 10, Rattenborg 6, Kasch 4, Cloe Savitski 2, Tesdahl 2, Casey 2.

Serving — Finucan 13-13, 1 ace; Casey 13-13; Gourley 9-9; Kasch 7-7; Stoakes 7-7; Rattenborg 8-8.


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