AFTON — Southwest Valley’s height and experience propelled the Timberwolves to a 25-19, 23-25, 25-15, 25-15 win over East Union here Tuesday.
But, that didn’t stop the Eagles from battling throughout the contest.
“They were really scrappy,” Southwest Valley head coach Lindsay Wetzel said. “They got a lot up that other teams would have dropped.”
“The girls worked really hard,” East Union coach Gail Thatcher said.
Dealing with a Southwest Valley front line that includes 5-10 Marissa Drake, 6-1 Jade Petersen, 6-2 Marie Palmer and 6-3 Sydney Maynes was a difficult task for an East Union team that started four sophomores.
“We’re a tall team,” Wetzel said. “Sydney and Marie up there in front and Jade and Mar on those nine spots, get their hands on a lot of balls and they did a great job of blocking tonight.”
Maynes finished the match with four solo blocks and one block assist, while Palmer got her hands on three solo blocks and one block assist. Petersen finished with two solo blocks.
“I knew Southwest Valley was going to bring it,” Thatcher said. “They’re a lot taller than us, a lot older than us, and she’s really put together a good team with the girls she’s got from Corning and Villisca mixing well.”
Palmer was a force for the Timberwolves in the first game, giving the Eagles fits, especially early in the game.
“When you’re young and your sophomores haven’t seen a hitter like that this year, it makes it difficult,” Thatcher said. “Then you try to get them out wide and they hit it between the seams. You try to move the girls around a little bit, but I was pleased with how we played. We learned a lot tonight.”
Palmer finished the match with 15 kills. She hit a rocket to give the Timberwolves a 16-12 lead in the first game and then gave her team a point later to make it 23-18 before the Timberwolves closed out the first game 25-19.
“We came out really on fire in game one, did a great job,” Wetzel said. “Our hitting was fantastic. That was probably the best we’ve hit all year.”
Southwest Valley bolted to a 12-6 lead in game two, but East Union came roaring back, as Emily Eckels went on a service string to close the score to 13-13.
Southwest Valley quickly regained a 20-15 lead in the game, however. But once again, East Union fought back.
A Kelsey Hoff kill ended the Timberwolves’ run, and Courtney Phelps served three-straight points to make it a 22-21 game, forcing Wetzel to call a timeout.
After Southwest Valley stretched the lead to 23-21, East Union scored the final four points of the game to come away with a 25-23 win.
“We keep slipping with serves,” Wetzel said. “We’ve got to get our serves on. We keep letting teams hang around with our missed serves. We need to clean that up.”
For East Union, libero Brittany Malone played a strong defensive game, going 30-of-32 on serve receive and recording a team-high 30 digs.
“Brittany Malone has really been a big asset and changed our passing game a lot for us,” Thatcher said. “Switching her to libero has increased our touches on the ball. Now we have to get our hitters to get more kills than errors. That’s what we’re struggling with right now.”
Over the final two games, Southwest Valley proved to be too strong for East Union. While the Eagles started four sophomores, Southwest Valley started all seniors and juniors.
Southwest Valley improved to 15-4 for the season and remained undefeated in Pride of Iowa Conference play, with just one conference matchup remaining on the schedule next Tuesday against Bedford.
East Union, meanwhile, falls to 8-13 for the season. The Eagles host an Interstate 35 team coached by former Eagle prep and Creston assistant coach Mallory Peterson on Thursday.
“It’s been a long time since Corning/Southwest Valley has beaten East Union, so that was a great feeling for these girls,” Wetzel said.
Serving (aces) — EU: Kelsey Hoff 15-15 (3), Courtney Phelps 11-11, Brittany Malone 11-11, McKayle Dudney 10-10, Kali Mertens 12-15, Emily Eckels 11-14 (2).
Attacks (kills) — SWV: Marie Palmer 15, Sydney Maynes 8. EU: Dudney 7, Kali Mertens 5, Blondowski 4, Hoff 4.
Blocks (solo-assists) — SWV: Maynes 4-1, Palmer 3-1, Jade Petersen 2-0. EU: Mertens 1-0.
Setting (assists) — Caitlyn Damewood 19, Casaundra Currin 13. EU: Phelps 15.
Digs — Sierra Sleep 17, Mikayla Dolch 12, Currin 11. EU: Malone 30, Alyssa Proffitt 12.
Serve receive — EU: Malone 30-32, Emily Eckels 13-15, Proffitt 10-10.