GREENFIELD — Serving twice for match point, and then losing that fourth set, proved too much to overcome for the Nodaway Valley volleyball team in the Class 2A regional opener here Tuesday night against Earlham.
Earlham improved to 14-5 for the season with its second five-set victory of the season over Nodaway Valley (10-18), 22-25, 25-20, 21-25, 27-25, 15-9. The win pushes the Cardinals to the Region 4 quarterfinals Oct. 29 at Des Moines Christian.
Nodaway Valley won the first and third sets Tuesday, and was on the brink twice of finishing it off in the fourth set, serving with leads of 24-23 and 25-24. The first time a good save in the back row sparked the Cardinals, and the second time junior Alex Potzner had one of her match-high 20 kills to extend the action.
Anna Anker served the final two points to lift Earlham to a 27-25 win and force a fifth set. That sparked new life in the Earlham huddle, while the Wolverines were deflated after being on the verge of victory, coach Hannah West said.
“We definitely lost momentum, big time, by losing that fourth game,” West said. “And after we lost that momentum, we just never got it back. They jumped ahead 3-0 and we started playing safe, instead of playing to win.”
Earlham bolted to a 9-2 lead in the game to 15.
“We saw them get frustrated toward the end of game four,” said Earlham coach Mindy Harskamp. “They could have finished it. It was huge that we got up 3-0 right away. The kids just took it from there with a bunch of hustle plays.”
After trailing 12-3, Nodaway Valley slowly climbed back into contention in that last set. Christine Gross served two points on an ace and a deep kill by Emily Schildberg.
Moments later, Schildberg blocked Ari Brightman and Megan McIntosh smacked one of her 16 kills to close it to 14-8. Josie Carter then served a point to make it 14-9 on a kill from the left side by Sidney Hohertz, who matched McIntosh with 16 kills on the night.
The final point was a long rally. Earlham’s Brightman attacked the Wolverine court, and on the dig the ball shot to the ceiling in the Nodaway Valley gym. The Wolverines were unable to play the carom and the ball fell to the floor for match point.
Both coaches respected the other’s defense in a night of long rallies.
“They were a scrappy team,” West said. “It was tough to get anything down on them, and they had a couple of great hitters in No. 8 (Potzner) and No. 4 (Jess Igarashi).”
Likewise, Harskamp said points were harder to come by than the earlier meeting with the Wolverines. Katy Ehrsam led the Wolverines with 20 digs.
“Their blocking was much better tonight, so we really had to work to cover our hitters,” the Cardinal coach said. “When we played them at home, No. 12 (McIntosh) killed us, and she did again tonight.”
West loses seniors Megan Eblen, Rachel Jacobson, Gross and McIntosh from this year’s squad. She felt Tuesday’s battle was a good indication of the team’s progress.
“We fought hard,” she said. “We have improved tremendously. Every single girl has improved.”
Nodaway Valley statistics
Serving (aces) — Josie Carter 30-30 (3), Christine Gross 20-22 (3), Megan McIntosh 17-18 (2), Katy Ehrsam 16-17 (1).
Attacks (kills) — Sidney Hohertz 16, McIntosh 16, Gross 9.
Setting (assists) — Carter 14, Rachel Jacobson 13.
Digs — Ehrsam 20, Hohertz 10, Gross 10, Carter 9.
Attacks (kills) — Alex Potzner 20, Jess Igarashi 10.
Blocks (solo-assists) — Potzner 6.
Setting (assists) — Anna Anker 34.
Digs — Potzner 21, McKenna VonRentzell 15.