MURRAY — Two previous victories over Lamoni didn’t seem to matter.
Murray was in a quandary in a Class 1A Region 3 quarterfinal match here Tuesday night.
Lamoni had coasted 25-14 in the opening set and led the match, 2-1. In the fourth set, a must-win situation, a Murray hit sailed out of bounds to give the Demons a 13-9 lead.
Murray coach Jerry Shields called a timeout.
“He pretty much told us to go out there and put your heart into it, and if you want it, you can go out and get it,” said junior setter Kate Patton. “Since I was the one who made the error, I told the team it was my fault, and that we can correct the mistakes and get our confidence back. Our fans got into it. They did an awesome job.”
Before long, it was tied 14-14 and a battle to the end. Murray got the match tied at 2-2 by winning 25-21. Taylor Gilbert had a three-point service run for a 22-19 lead. Junior middle hitter Cheyanne Ashby slammed two kills during the closing rally as Patton served the final two points.
“In the timeout, I told them they just need to get a side-out and get a point,” Shields said. “Then three points in a row and we can get it tied up. After 14-10, we got the next four points and it was 14-14. I said, there you go!”
It’s comforting to have his experienced junior (Patton) on the service line with the must-win game on the line, Shields said.
“Kate does a real nice job,” he said. “We have three kids serving 95 percent or better — her and Courtney Siefkas and Ashley Rider. Kate also leads us in aces, about 70 for the year. You know she’s going to get the ball over and you’ll get an opportunity.”
With the 3-1 victory slipping away, Lamoni also seemed to lose the momentum as the Mustangs came out in the fifth set and played energized to take a 5-2 lead in the 15-point game.
Lamoni rallied to tie it 10-10, and it was set up for a thrilling finish.
Ashby slammed a kill to the floor to tie it 12-12, and sophomore outside hitter Hannah Barber then served the final three points of the 15-12 triumph, including an ace at 14-12.
Barber was asked her thoughts as she stepped to the line, with her team poised to finish the comeback from its bleak position about 30 minutes earlier.
“Basically, I was just thinking about getting my serves in,” Barber said. “While I was serving, I was saying a short prayer, to help me just get the ball over.”
Barber said the team seemed to reach another level in the fifth and final set.
“We really built up our confidence and started believing and got our momentum back up,” she said.
Shields said Lamoni staged a much tougher battle than the previous two meetings, led by 6-foot-1 freshman hitter Brittany Larsen and 5-11 junior hitter Tiffany Brunner.
“We beat them 3-2 early on and then in the conference game down there October 9th we beat them 3-0,” Shields said. “They were really scrappy tonight. They were hitting the lines, and we needed to adjust. Our serve receive was horrendous in the first game. Kate was running all over the place for the first pass.”
An attacking mindset ultimately spelled the difference for a Mustang squad that improved to 14-9 with the 14-25, 25-20, 23-25, 25-21, 15-12 win, while ending Lamoni’s season at 12-12.
“There were times when we bumped back and forth seven or eight times apiece, and then they finally attacked and got the point,” Shields said. “If you go back and forth, the first team that attacks the ball is going to get the point.”
Now, it’s on to bigger challenges as the Mustangs travel to Afton Friday night to take on the 10th-rated Eagles (29-5) in a 7 p.m. clash.
“They won in 45 minutes tonight,” Shields said. “They’re good. They are well-deserved of the ranking. I’d say probably 80 percent of their offense goes through Amber Friend. She’s a very good hitter.”
Serving (aces) — XXX
Attacks (kills) — XXX
Blocks (solo-assists) — XXXX
Setting (assists) — XXXX
Digs — XXXXX
Serve receive — XXX