HARLAN — If it’s any consolation, Creston is in pretty lofty company lately in taking a loss to Harlan’s top-ranked volleyball team.
The Cyclones, ranked No. 1 in Class 4A at 26-3, improved to 8-0 in Hawkeye 10 play with a 25-7, 25-12, 25-9 victory over the Panthers Tuesday night.
The quick victory came three days after the Cyclones ran nearly unscathed through the rugged Western Christian Invitational. In the championship match there, Harlan topped Class 2A second-ranked Western Christian, 21-16, 21-17, to avenge a 2-0 loss in pool play.
In that event, the Cyclones swept the likes of Class 3A top-ranked MOC-Floyd Valley, Class 3A No. 8 Unity Christian and Class 4A eighth-ranked Sioux City Bishop Heelan.
The Cyclones, led by Iowa State verbal commit Jess Schaben, seem poised for a serious state championship run.
“I think if they keep their heads screwed on, yes, they could win the championship,” said Creston coach Polly Luther. “But tonight, it’s hard to tell you, because we played so bad.”
Nobody reached double figures in kills for the Panthers, who were led by Natalie Mostek’s seven. She also had three solo blocks.
Six Panthers were perfect at the service line, but there was only one ace by Mostek. Jami Sickels and Alli Thomsen were the dig leaders with three.
“It was disappointing, because we didn’t even really get a chance to see the real Harlan because we weren’t playing well,” Luther said. “Even if you lose to a team like that, it’s fun to go out and see if you can compete and challenge them. We did not do that tonight.”
Harlan is at the top of the heap in a conference that includes five rated teams. The Panthers slipped to 10-10 overall and remain in eighth place in the league at 2-7 as Denison-Schleswig fell to 1-8 with a loss to St. Albert, one of those rated teams.
Schaben’s aggressive service has been clocked at 42 mph on radar. She was tough again Tuesday at 9-of-9 with two aces, but teammate Elle Kloewer had a team-high five aces.
Schaben smacked a team-high 14 kills and Kloewer had eight. Setter Kenzie Swanson had 32 assists and served 16-16. The Harlan defense had 33 digs, topped by Kloewer’s seven.
“Schaben is legit, and they have several hitters who swing hard, and their passing is good,” Luther said.
On Saturday the Panthers travel to the Winterset tournament, and Luther said she will be looking for someone to establish consistency at the outside hitter position. The host Huskies were swept Tuesday by Carroll, including an exciting 32-30 set to end it.
Class 3A fourth-ranked Red Oak figures to be a team to beat in the Winterset event.
Serving (aces) — Haylee LaMasters 7-7, Hanna Luther 6-6, Natalie Mostek 5-5 (1), Alli Thomsen 4-4.
Attacks (kills) — Mostek 7, Angie Sorensen 4, Nicole Haley 3, Marie Hood 1.
Blocks (solo-assists) — Mostek 3-1, Dunphy 0-1, Sorensen 0-1, Jenna Taylor 0-1.
Setting (assists) — Luther 18.
Digs — Jami Sickels 3, Thomsen 3, LaMasters 1.
Harlan swept the Creston junior varsity Tuesday, 25-14, 25-15.
Sydney Dunphy had four kills for the Panthers.
“We looked pretty sluggish,” said Creston coach Jessie McClellan. “We can’t play like we did tonight against teams like Harlan. They’re a solid program and it was good for us to see that level of play. With our best effort, we could have definitely competed with them. All we can do is get in the gym and work tomorrow.”
The Harlan freshmen defeated Creston Tuesday 25-14, 25-17, 25-8, 25-13.
“They have a pretty good freshman team in Harlan,” Creston coach Mike McCabe said. “We competed well in spurts, just not consistent enough.”