TRURO — After game one of the Pride of Iowa Conference Tournament championship match here Tuesday, it looked like Southwest Valley might roll to the conference championship.
The Timberwolves had quickly dispatched East Union in the semifinals and won the opening game of the championship match 25-14 over Martensdale-St. Marys.
But the Class 1A 14th-ranked Blue Devils bounced back and took the next three games, 25-18, 25-22, 25-21, earning the conference championship.
“The difference was our hitting percentage in game one was .458 and we kind of just went down from there in games two, three and four,” Southwest Valley head coach Lindsay Wetzel said. “That makes a big difference. When we’re attacking, we’re doing better and when we’re making a lot of hitting errors, we’re not doing so well.”
The pivotal point of the match came in game three, as the two teams were knotted at one game apiece.
Martensdale-St. Marys built a 10-4 lead and later led 14-8 and 15-10.
Southwest Valley cut that lead to 15-14 before a Martensdale-St. Marys timeout.
The two teams went back and forth for the remainder of the game, but every time Southwest Valley seemed to grab momentum, the Timberwolves would miss a serve, handing Martensdale-St. Marys a point and the serve back.
The Timberwolves tied the game at 17-17 and 18-18, and later at 20-20, 21-21 and 22-22. But missed serves proved to be the team’s demise in the second game, as the Blue Devils hung on for a 25-22 win.
“Every time we miss a serve, it’s an easy point for the other side,” Wetzel said. “They didn’t have to do anything to earn it. It was a mental mistake on our part. We missed six serves in game three and the score was 25-22, so you take six away from them and add it on to ours, it makes a difference in the ballgame.
“Serving is a mental game,” she continued. “We do it every single day in practice, so that’s frustrating when we could have had game three there and could have gone up two sets to one. But you’re not going to do it missing six serves against a team like Martensdale.”
Southwest Valley had its opportunities in the fourth game of the match, as well. The Timberwolves built a 13-5 lead on the strength of Marie Palmer’s play early in the game.
But, that lead quickly dwindled with Nicole Shutt serving for Martensdale. The Blue Devils eventually fought back to make it a 16-15 game, and after falling down 19-17, fought back to take a 20-19 lead.
Southwest Valley evened the score at 20-20, but the Blue Devils outscored the Timberwolves 5-1 to finish the game and the match.
“The girls fought hard,” Wetzel said. “Second place is nothing to hang our heads about. We haven’t made it to Tuesday since I’ve been coaching, so that was our first goal. We’ll learn from it and move on to regionals.”
East Union, after a semifinal loss to Southwest Valley, took on Bedford in the third place match.
The Eagles quickly bolted to a 2-0 lead in games, thanks to a 25-18 win in game one and a 27-25 win in game two.
But Bedford battled back to take a 25-23 win in game three and won game four by a score of 25-17, forcing a fifth and final game to 15.
The two teams went back and forth all the way to a 13-13 tie in the fifth game, when East Union’s Katlin Weinkoetz quickly dumped it over the net to give East Union a 14-13 lead.
On the ensuing serve receive, Bedford hit the ball into the net, and failed to get it over, giving the Eagles third place in the Pride of Iowa Conference.
“It’s honestly a reward to be third in our conference,” East Union head coach Gail Thatcher said. “Our conference is tough. We have a lot of stiff competition, and I felt like we were blessed to be here tonight. We’ve struggled some. Really pleased with the ending.”
Thatcher was pleased to get back to the Tuesday night matches in the conference tournament, given the amount of talent lost from last year’s team.
“It makes me very happy,” she said. “These girls have worked harder than any team I’ve had in probably the last five years. Last year, we played on the talent. We worked hard, but these girls really had to work hard and have a gut check, and go after things and play sometimes above our game just to get through.”
Southwest Valley cruised to a sweep of East Union in the semifinals, winning 25-12, 25-9, 25-18.
“We came out nice against East Union and attacked right away,” Wetzel said. “We were serving well, we were being scrappy, we were passing, so overall we had good consistent play against East Union.”
Pride of Iowa Conference Tournament
Southwest Valley 3, East Union 0
Southwest Valley statistics
Kills — Marie Palmer 15, Sydney Maynes 5, Kelsie Kinman 2.
Digs — Sierra Sleep 13, Caitlyn Damewood 10, Marie Palmer 9, Kelsie Kinman 7, Sydney Maynes 5.
Assists — Caitlyn Damewood 12, Casaundra Currin 6.
Blocks — Marie Palmer 7, Sydney Maynes 1.
East Union statistics
Kills — Kali Mertens 3, McKayle Dudney 3, Chay Blondowski 2, Kelsey Hoff 2.
Serving — Kali Mertens 12-12, Courtney Phelps 8-8, Kelsey Hoff 6-6.
Digs — Brittany Malone 16, Courtney Phelps 8, McKayle Dudney 8.
Assists — Courtney Phelps 9.
Blocks — Kali Mertens 2, McKayle Dudney 1.
Martensdale-St. Marys 3, Southwest Valley 1
Southwest Valley statistics
Kills — Marie Palmer 20, Sydney Maynes 14, Kelsie Kinman 6.
Digs — Kelsie Kinman 17, Mikayla Dolch 11, Caitlyn Damewood 8, Casaundra Currin 6, Sydney Maynes 6.
Assists — Casaundra Currin 18, Caitlyn Damewood 16.
Blocks — Marie Palmer 6, Sydney Maynes 1.
East Union 3, Bedford 2
East Union statistics
Kills — Kali Mertens 13, Kelsey Hoff 11, Chay Blondowski 10.
Serving (aces) — Kali Mertens 28-29 (3), Kelsey Hoff 24-27 (3), Courtney Phelps 16-16 (1), Emily Eckels 11-13 (2), McKayle Dudney 9-9 (1).
Digs — Brittany Malone 27, Kali Mertens 16, Courtney Phelps 14, Kelsey Hoff 13, Alyssa Proffitt 12.
Assists — Courtney Phelps 41.
Blocks — Kali Mertens 1, Chay Blondowski 2.