The Creston volleyball team unveiled some new wrinkles in a dominant season-opening performance Tuesday night.
The Panthers swept visiting Norwalk, 25-16, 25-13, 25-21, before an enthusiastic student crowd that earned praise from both players and coaches.
“They are amazing,” said junior middle hitter Natalie Mostek. “They definitely keep us going. It’s so great to have a student section like that.”
“It was a fun night in the CHS gym!” coach Polly Luther said. “I loved the crowd. Mostek was on fire. Hanna (Luther) put balls up where we could really do something with them and play aggressively. Our serving was solid and our passing was better.”
Mostek dominated action at the net with a match-high 18 kills and four blocks. She also went 19-of-20 at the service line with three aces.
Early on, Mostek and Luther, the team’s setter, worked some good quick-set attacks to keep the Norwalk blockers off balance. Later, Mostek and sophomore right side hitter Jenna Taylor successfully worked a tandem play, where Mostek faked an attack as Taylor swooped in behind her to hammer the ball.
These are advanced elements of offense not shown by the Panthers in recent years.
“I loved it,” coach Luther said. “Communication is the key. It takes constant talking. This way, they (opponents) are not really sure what we are going to throw at them.”
Mostek was a force in the middle, despite battling the final stages of illness that sidelined her from practice the first three days of school last week. She still has a sore throat and hacking cough.
But it did not affect her jumping, or timing on kill shots through the Warrior defense.
“We’re running set plays on our offense,” Mostek said. “We’re running quick sets and tandems. It gets the defense confused. We don’t do much of it, but it’s a huge step from where we were last year. It keeps them on their toes.”
Mostek said the new plays are only possible if passes are accurate from the back row, and Tuesday’s performance was solid. Libero Alli Thomsen was 11-of-12 in passing, new starter Jami Sickels was 7-of-8 and junior Haylee LaMasters was 6-of-7 while serving at an 8-8 clip.
Luther set 36 assists and was perfect in 15 serving attempts. In fact, as a team Creston missed only five serves all night.
“We have to bring that enthusiasm to every match,” coach Luther said. “It’s always good to open with a W. I’m very proud of the girls tonight.”
Creston opens Hawkeye 10 play Thursday night at Clarinda, which features senior standout Darcy Sunderman.
Serving (aces) — Hanna Luther 15-15, Natalie Mostek 19-20 (3), Jami Sickels 10-11 (1), Haylee LaMasters 8-8, Brenna Baker 7-8, Alli Thomsen 8-10.
Attacks (kills) — Natalie Mostek 18, Marie Hood 6, Sydney Dunphy 6, Jenna Taylor 4, Ashley Harris 3.
Blocks — Mostek 4, Taylor 2.
Setting (assists) — Luther 36, Taylor 1.
Passing — Thomsen 11-12, Jami Sickels 7-8, LaMasters 6-7, Baker 4-6, Mostek 2-3, Hood 2-5, Harris 1-1.
Creston’s junior varsity defeated Norwalk 25-18, 24-26, 16-14.
Coach Jessie McClellan said Nicole Haley and Angie Sorensen led the team at the net with hitting and blocking. Alyssa Higgins had a strong passing performance.
“I was proud of my girls in how they played hard tonight and worked well as a team,” McClellan said. “We have some kids stepping up and playing new positions and it was fun to watch their hard work pay off. Hopefully, our opening performance is an indicator of the season.”
Norwalk freshmen swept Creston 25-15, 25-17, 25-15, 16-15.
“We came away with some positives we can build on and many things we still need to work on,” Creston coach Mike McCabe said. “For a first night it was a good first step. This is one of Norwalk’s better freshman classes.”