CORNING — Mount Ayr gave Southwest Valley a challenge here Tuesday in a Class 2A regional quarterfinal match, but the Timberwolves pulled off the 25-16, 25-17, 25-21 sweep to advance to the semifinals.
In a back-and-forth game one, Southwest Valley senior Sydney Maynes had a pair of blocks in a run that stretched a 9-8 lead to 13-8 for the Timberwolves.
Then, with the two teams knotted at 16-16, Maynes smoked a kill into a seam down the middle of Mount Ayr’s defense to give the Timberwolves a 17-16 lead.
Maynes stepped to the service line, and reeled off eight straight points to give Southwest Valley the 25-16 win in game one.
“That was huge. Getting those stuff blocks is a huge momentum swing to our side,” Southwest Valley head coach Lindsay Wetzel said. “It gets the girls excited. It makes the hitters on the other side a little nervous. They don’t want to hit it at her and get it blocked like that. That was huge for her to come out of the gate like that.”
It was just the spark the Timberwolves needed, after a sluggish start following not having played since Oct. 17.
“We didn’t play that first round, and we’ve had a lot of time off,” Wetzel said. “I kind of expected a little sluggish, flatness out of the gate, but you know they’ve (Mount Ayr) improved and (Kelcie) Shields kind of gave us trouble on the outside there.”
Shields, along with Mount Ayr’s other primary hitter senior Paige Daughton, had to work for every point they earned, however, thanks to Southwest Valley’s strong blocking.
“They do a great job blocking,” Mount Ayr head coach Tori Braby said. “They know we have two main hitters, and they triple blocked them a lot in the middle, so that really threw us off. Our other hitters just didn’t step up and take the pressure off our hitters. We kind of worked on taking balls off the block, but Southwest Valley, triple blocking is just hard to get the ball through.”
Maynes led the Timberwolves with five solo blocks and one block assist. Marissa Drake and Jade Petersen each finished with one block assist.
Game two of the match unfolded much like game one — a back-and-forth contest until Mount Ayr closed the margin to a 17-14 Southwest Valley lead.
The Timberwolves then won eight of the next 11 points to close out the game, including a kill by Marie Palmer and an ace by Sierra Sleep.
Mount Ayr took an 11-10 lead in game three on a Daughton kill from the back row, and stretched it to 14-11, before another Maynes block sparked a Southwest Valley run that gave the Timberwolves a 15-14 lead.
The two teams traded points to get to 16-16, but Palmer hit a laser into the middle of the Mount Ayr defense, putting Sleep on the service line with a 17-16 lead.
Sleep served the next six points with Maynes capping the run of with a tip and a kill, making the score 23-16.
Mount Ayr’s Tessa Shields ended the run, however; and the Raiderettes fought back to make the score 23-21.
But Maynes hit another kill to make it 24-21 and Mount Ayr couldn’t get the ball inbounds over the net to finish the match.
“I told the girls we had nothing to lose, so just come out and leave everything on the floor like it’s your last game, and unfortunately it was our last game,” Braby said. “Our girls gave every bit of effort they could. Southwest Valley is just a very good team.”
It was an improved effort over the previous two matchups against Southwest Valley, in which the Raiderettes failed to score more than 15 points in any of the five games they played.
“We did not show up scared,” Braby said. “We showed up ready to play, and that’s a big change from the last time we played them.”
On a night when Southwest Valley served well as a team, Wetzel said Kelsie Kinman’s serving stood out.
Sleep led the team in serving at 20-of-21, while Kinman served 15-of-16.
“I thought Kelsie Kinman did a nice job serving,” Wetzel said. “She’s kind of been off and on with her serving all year. She served good tonight. She also had some great digs. And she hit the ball hard. I don’t think I’ve seen her hit that hard all season. She’s a senior. She doesn’t want her season to end.”
Still, there are things Wetzel believes her 21-9 Timberwolves need to improve on before Friday’s regional semifinal matchup with 27-9 Des Moines Christian in Greenfield.
“We had some trouble getting our block lined up and then we’d make too many hitting errors,” Wetzel said. “We need to clean that up and fix that. That would fix a lot of issues right now.”
Mount Ayr ends its season with a record of 5-23.
Southwest Valley statistics
Serving (aces) — Sierra Sleep 20-21, Kelsie Kinman 15-16, Casaundra Currin 12-13, Sydney Maynes 9-10, Mikayla Dolch 7-7, Caitlyn Damewood 6-7
Attacks (kills) — Marie Palmer 14, Sydney Maynes 9, Jade Petersen 6, Kelsie Kinman 4, Mikayla Dolch 3, Marissa Drake 2
Blocks (solo-assists) — Sydney Maynes 5-1, Jade Petersen 0-1, Marissa Drake 0-1
Setting (assists) — Casaundra Currin 17, Caitlyn Damewood 16
Digs — Kelsie Kinman 23, Sierra Sleep 14, Casaundra Currin 8, Caitlyn Damewood 6, Mikayla Dolch 6, Sydney Maynes 5.
Mount Ayr statistics were not available at press time.