Volleyball is a game of momentum.
And there was a huge momentum shift in the first game of Wednesday’s Class 1A regional final here, swinging things in favor of Stanton, as the Viqueens swept Murray for its fourth-straight trip to the state tournament.
The Lady Mustangs had built a 21-14 lead in the first game behind strong play from Hannah Barber and Megan Oswald, forcing Stanton head coach Jody Druivenga to call a timeout.
Stanton won the first point coming out of the timeout and then rode a Haley Weis service string that included four aces to a 22-21 lead — the first lead for the Viqueens since 5-4.
After Murray tied the game at 22-22, an Erin DeKay tip and a Moriah Kammerer block sealed an improbable comeback win for the Viqueens.
“We kind of fell apart at the end of that first one,” Murray head coach Jerry Shields said. “That’s what killed us, because when we lost that first game, you could kind of see everybody’s lips start to drop a little bit. We just stopped attacking, and then our serve receive kind of went downhill there for about five or six points, and that really killed us.”
Murray found itself in a position to take game two, as well, but once again couldn’t finish it off.
The Lady Mustangs, after trailing 7-2 early in the game, fought back to take a 19-15 lead. But, a DeKay block and several kills from Stanton standout Carmen Subbert vaulted the Viqueens to another 25-22 win.
Subbert finished with a match-high 27 kills.
“I told them we had to win three,” Shields said. “We had to win three coming in. It doesn’t make a difference what three. We’re still saying that even after we lost the second one — you’ve still got to win three games. Instead of the first three, it’s got to be the last three.
“They never did give up, so I’m proud of them for that,” he continued. “We had a heck of a season. We’ve got some really good kids. I’m proud of these kids.”
The two teams continued trading shots back and forth in the third game, until Stanton took a 19-16 lead on a Heidi Vanderholm kill and went on to finish off the sweep with a 25-17 win.
The Lady Mustangs struggled with serve receive throughout the match, after performing well in that category throughout the season.
“It all comes down to our serve receive and our digging,” Shields said. “If we don’t get the pass to the setter, Kate (Patton) has to come back to the second row to get it, and then we’re in trouble. She’s one of the best bump setters I’ve ever had, but even she can’t pull off the impossible sometimes. Our passing just needed to be a little better, and that’s something that’s been good all year long.”
Coming into the match, Stanton knew it needed to slow down Barber. Since the Viqueens had not seen Murray at all throughout the season, Druivenga’s husband traveled to Murray several weeks ago to film the Mustangs.
“We knew she was their go-to girl,” Druivenga said. “We knew she was going to be tough. We knew we were going to have to work around her, and she receives the ball very well in the back row. We knew we couldn’t serve to her.”
Barber finished with 13 kills, while Oswald also had a strong night at the net with 11 kills and two blocks. Patton set 30 assists for the Lady Mustangs.
Even though the match ended in a sweep, it was closely contested throughout the entire match. Things could have easily gone either way.
“It was a great game,” Druivenga said. “You’ve got to hand it to Murray. Fantastic team. They just never gave up. They fought hard to the end. That’s what it’s all about. This is the final. What do you have to lose? They played aggressive, they played hard.”
Six Murray seniors played their final volleyball match for the Lady Mustangs on Wednesday. Seniors for Murray were Cheyanne Ashby, Patton, Oswald, Courtney Siefkas, Michaela O’Grady and Allison Peterson.
“We’ve got six seniors we’re going to have to replace next year, and that’s going to be tough,” Shields said. “We’ve got some good underclassmen coming through, but we’re just going to have to put in a lot of hard work. Those kids put in a lot of work this summer, we’re going to have to do the same next summer.”
Murray finishes its season with a record of 27-4, while Stanton improves to 37-5. The Viqueens will open against Le Mars Gehlen Catholic (23-11) in the first round of the state tournament at 4 p.m. on Nov. 13.
Serving (aces) — Hannah Barber 16-16 (4), Kate Patton 10-10, Megan Oswald 9-9 (2) Team: 58-60 (9)
Attacks (kills) — Hannah Barber 19-23 (13), Megan Oswald 18-18 (11), Cheyanne Ashby 8-10 (6) Team: 54-62 (32)
Blocks (solo-assists) — Jade Lecy 5, Cheyanne Ashby 2, Megan Oswald 2
Setting (assists) — Kate Patton 30
Digs — Hannah Barber 12, McKenzie Case 10.