By SCOTT JACKSON
Courier sports writer
---- — OTTUMWA — The number two was synonymous with a lot of the happenings at Evans Middle School Gymnasium Thursday night.
For the Ottumwa, Des Moines Lincoln and the ninth-ranked (4A) Indianola volleyball teams, it was a chance to play two matches. Each one of those three matches went exactly two games.
And, unfortunately for the Bulldog spikers, two wins went to the Indians including a second win over OHS on the Bulldogs home floor.
As they will hope to solidify on Saturday in their home gymnasium, the Indians proved to be too good for two CIML Metro Conference opponents on Thursday. Indianola swept past Des Moines Lincoln, 21-16 and 21-6, before toppling their closest competitor in the Metro with a 21-16, 21-11 sweep of the Bulldogs.
So far, so good for Indianola. At 20-10 overall on the season, the Indians are one win against Des Moines next week away from a perfect run to the regular season Metro crown.
Ottumwa, however, may have something to say about who goes home with the CIML Metro Conference tournament crown. Thursday’s opening-site triangular was just the start of the fun that could arise in Indianola this weekend for the conference tournament where Ottumwa could get one more shot at the Indians.
“I really want to beat them,” senior Megan Black said of Indianola. “Hopefully, we’ll get that chance on Saturday.”
Thursday, all in all, Bulldog head volleyball coach Jessica Carson was pleased with the effort of her team. With every Metro team vying for the same prize on Saturday, Thursday’s action at Evans was more of a preliminary to the main event at Indianola’s gym.
“Basically, all of the conference teams were playing each other at a couple of different sites. On Saturday, we’re going to be paired up with all the other conference teams we didn’t face,” Carson said. “We started doing this a few years ago. There’s a traveling trophy that goes to the winning team. They get their logo put on the trophy and they get to keep it for a full year.”
“It’s a nice little reward and little bit of an incentive for all of us outside of the conference matches.”
Of course, Thursday’s unique three-team Metro tourney also provided the Bulldogs, Railsplitters and Indians with a weekday taste of any random weekend tournament. Both Ottumwa and Lincoln stepped right back on the floor after finishing a match with the Rails meeting OHS moments after losing in two games to Indianola.
“It was a little different, but I kind of liked being here early and watching the two teams playing before our first match,” Black said. “I think it gave us a little bit of momentum seeing those teams play and seeing what they did before we had to play either of them.”
The Bulldogs battle Des Moines Lincoln in a pair of tough games. After some early back-and-forth action, a five-point run spurred on the attacking of Black led to a 21-18 win in the opener. The OHS senior outside hitter had four of team-best six kills in the game, including three to rally Ottumwa from a 12-11 deficit.
“We played really well together,” Black said after leading the Bulldogs with 11 kills on the night. “Our passing, setting and hitting really meshed together. We connected well and we all kept good attitudes.”
Game two wasn’t quite as dramatic, though it was definitely another tight affair. OHS never trailed in the clincher after scoring the first three points of the game, but would up winning 21-16 after not leading by more than five points the rest of the match.
“Last time we played Lincoln, we went all five games with them,” Carson said. “It was nice to go ahead and finish them off in two and stay strong for the rest of the night.”
After stepping on the court as the fresh team against Lincoln (14-21, 2-4), Ottumwa had the task of turning right around to face an Indianola squad that the only break during the night. The Indians gained control early with five-straight points that helped open a 12-5 game one lead.
Indianola would eventually gain seven game points. Ottumwa fought off three, but not the fourth as a Lexi Parker kill ended a 21-16 opening game.
“We do this every weekend. We play back-to-back matches all the time and we’re used to the rhythm, so I don’t that had a negative impact on us,” Carson said. “I thought we played great defense all night, which we always seem to do against Indianola. In the end, they have a great server and couple of great hitters. It took everything our girls had to keep the ball alive and stay in the game.”
The attacking presence of the Indians proved in the end to be too much. Junior Kristian Quijano scored on nine kills against the Bulldogs, including six in game two as Indianola never trailed and pulled away to end the night early at Evans Gym with a 21-11 victory.
And while the loss drops Ottumwa to 12-21 overall, the 5-1 Metro mark leaves the Bulldogs alone in second place in the conference with just one team ahead of them. Besides a fourth meeting of the season with that team, Indianola, the Bulldog spikers will see another conference foe they will become quite familiar with over the next couple of weeks as OHS opens the Metro Conference Tournament bright and early Saturday morning against Des Moines Roosevelt.
“We’re going to see Roosevelt at the Metro Tournament, then we host them on Tuesday for senior night and we’ve drawn them to open the postseason,” Carson said. “It’s important for us to come right out on Saturday and set the tone against them and show we have all the confidence in the world that we can beat them.”
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Des Moines Lincoln Statistics
Aces — Riley Longden. Team — 1.
Kills — Heather Holmes 3, Katie Nickel 3, Anna Stevens 3, Longden 2, Taylor Phelps 2, Shelby Sieloff, Lauren Twelmeyer. Team — 15.
Blocks — Holmes 2, Jennifer Yang. Team — 3. Ottumwa Statistics
Serving — Chloe Davis 12-12, Mallary Simmer 8-8, Karissa Wilcoxson 7-8, Ellie Hammack 6-6, Hope Bitner 5-5, Megan Black 1-2. Team 39-41. Aces — Davis 2, Wilcoxson 2. Team — 4.
Hitting — Black 15-16, Hammack 14-15, Bitner 7-9, Wilcoxson 7-9, Megan Cobler 4-5, Davis 2-2, Simmer 1-2. Team 50-58. Kills — Black 6, Hammack 5, Wilcoxson 3, Bitner 3. Team — 17.
Setting — Davis 9, Wilcoxson 7. Team — 16.
Blocks — Bitner 2, Wilcoxson 2. Team — 4.
Digs — Black 12, Kassidi Henderson 6, Wilcoxson 4, Davis 3, Hammack 3, Simmer 2, Bitner, Cobler. Team — 31.
Aces — Jensen Bishop, Kristina Quijano, Kaylee Smith. Team — 3.
Kills — Kr. Quijano 9, Lexi Parker 4, Kayla Quijano 3, Nicole Coughlan 2, Hannah Lester, Smith. Team — 19.
Blocks — Lester 4, Kr. Quijano 4, Coughlan 2. Team — 10.
Serving — Chloe Davis 7-7, Hope Bitner 6-6, Karissa Wilcoxson 6-6, Megan Black 4-4, Ellie Hammack 4-4, Mallary Simmer 2-2. Team 29-29. Aces — Bitner. Team — 1.
Hitting — Black 15-20, Hammack 11-12, Wilcoxson 10-11, Megan Cobler 7-8, Bitner 5-5, Simmer 5-6, Davis 1-1. Team 54-63. Kills — Black 5, Hammack 3, Bitner 2, Wilcoxson 2, Cobler. Team — 13.
Setting — Wilcoxson 8, Davis 6. Team — 14.
Digs — Black 13, Hammack 7, Wilcoxson 3, Davis 2, Simmer 2, Bitner, Cobler. Team — 27.