By SCOTT JACKSON
Courier sports writer
---- — OTTUMWA — No, maybe it wasn’t the ultimate result Indian Hills head volleyball coach Lyndsey Lyon was looking for on Wednesday night.
The ultimate result against the ninth-ranked (DI) Iowa Western Reivers would have been to take three games from the former national champions and decade-long kingpins of Region XI. That would have given IHCC the first match victory over the national powerhouse from Council Bluffs since 2005, the last season the Warriors made it to the NJCAA Division I National Tournament.
But after being swept by the Reivers not once, not twice, not three times but four times in her first year as the Warriors head coach, Lyon was more than happy to finally watch her team win a game against the Reivers.
It wasn’t until after the match on Wednesday that Lyon looked back at the final game scores and realized that not only did IHCC finally take a game from the Reivers, but matched Iowa Western’s first game win. In other words, for the first two games on Wednesday night, Lyon watched her Warriors play ninth-ranked Iowa Western dead even for two full games.
“You know what? Yeah, even and right there with them after two games,” Lyon said.
Now, it’s a matter of figuring out how to be better for two more games than the Reivers. That is still a challenge the Warriors need to conquer.
“If only we hadn’t quite fallen off in that third game,” Lyon said. “Those first 10 serves of the third game just came at us so fast. Even I couldn’t believe how fast they got ahead.”
After splitting two 25-17 decisions Wednesday night at the Tom Arnold Net Center, a run of 11-straight points helped the Reivers respond to the challenge of Indian Hills. Iowa Western scored 37 of the next 51 points after IHCC evened the regional showdown, a run that would prove to be enough of a cushion for the Reivers to get out of Ottumwa with a 25-17, 17-25, 25-11, 25-19 victory.
But for the two young coaches who matched up for the first time on Wednesday, the final results on the scoreboard didn’t necessarily match up with how they felt about their team’s performances.
“It felt like we had control of the games, but it seems like something like that always happens where we’ll get in a slide or a funk and it’s hard to get back into it,” first-year Iowa Western head coach Alicia Williams said of the Reivers. “We have a very talented group, we just have a very young team and we need to put it all together. We’re looking to the end of the season at the point where we’re really going to peak.”
Lyon, meanwhile, couldn’t be happier about the overall performance of her team.
“We may have fallen off a little bit in the third game, but we worked our way back into it as the fourth game went along and we never stopped fighting all night,” Lyon said of the Warriors. “In that second game, we created our own energy. We didn’t make any errors. I’d never have any disappointments with us if we could just play the way we played in that second game against all of our opponents. It was a fun night.”
After a few errors at the net, but more points earned by the Reivers in the opening game during a 9-1 run late in the game to pull away for its 25-17 triumph, Lyon saw her team begin to light up Iowa Western in a way no IHCC team has in quite some time. Peyton Crosser serving, which included back-to-back aces the last of which narrowly clipped the back line, set up the Warriors who began to beat the Reivers at the net on nine consecutive points as Indian Hills opened a sudden 11-4 lead.
Iowa Western never got closer than four points in the game. Sophomore Shelby Lauterbach helped clinch the 25-17 win, drilling three consecutive kills as IHCC won the final four points of the game.
“They (Iowa Western) are one of the top-10 teams in the nation. The fact that we could compete at their level, keep up with them and even beat them in just one game really helps us a lot,” Lauterbach said of the Warriors’ improved play.
The start of the pivotal third game could have provided IHCC with a chance to continue building on the moment gained from the game two win. Instead, Iowa Western rose to the challenge issued to them by their young, first-year head coach winning several pivotal points as the Reivers suddenly couldn’t lose a critical point while the Warriors suddenly couldn’t buy one.
Iowa Western lead in game three grew to as large as 23-5. Calvineka Lockhart’s kill ended a late charge by IHCC to end a 25-11 game-three win for the Reivers.
“After that second set, I told the girls we had to get focused and get engaged. It was on us,” Williams said. “Once the girls finally got some momentum in the third game, it seemed to carry over to the fourth.”
The Reivers continued winning close points and continued to spread open an early lead in game four, opening up a 12-3 advantage that appeared as though it would knock IHCC out early in the clincher. Instead, the Warriors showed great heart and turned the final game into a back-and-forth dogfight, even closing the deficit to 21-17 while finding Lauterbach for several of her team-best 14 kills.
“Sometimes we just play a mental game with ourselves. We don’t attack the net as hard as we should,” Lauterbach said. “We’ve already improved on that a lot more on that in the past week and the good news is, we still have a lot more weeks ahead to continue to improve.”
Sydney Nelson led Iowa Western’s net attack, drilling 14 kills of her own on 28-31 hitting. Iowa Western (14-3, 1-0) edged out a side-out point to get the final serve to Kathia Sanchez, who finally closed out the match by serving out the final three points of the match.
“We’ll get back to where we’re all healthy and get back to where we need to be by the end of the year,” Lyon said. “I think we showed in this past week that we’re going up. We couldn’t have gone much further down than we got at this point last week. All we need to do is keep going up and we’ll be alright by the end of the season.”
Next up for IHCC (10-10, 0-1), a home date Tuesday with Southwestern at 7 p.m.
To follow Scott Jackson's Twitter feed, go to @stjack423
Iowa Western 25-17-25-25
Indian Hills 17-25-11-19
Aces — Emily Jones 3, Kathia Sanchez 2, Madison Halterman. Team — 6.
Hitting — Syndey Nelson 28-31, Aly Dawson 19-22, Kassidy Sullivan 17-22, Jones 10-12, Calvineka Lockhart 8-18, Sanchez 7-8, Tyann Thomas 4-4, Winnie Cupertino 1-1, Casey Curran 1-1, Elly Targy 1-1, Heather Smack 1-2. Team 97-122. Kills — Nelson 14, Dawson 9, Sullivan 7, Lockhart 6, Jones 5, Sanchez 3, Thomas 2, Curran, Targy. Team — 48.
Setting — Sanchez 41, Halterman 2, Jones 2, Sullivan, Targy. Team — 47.
Blocks — Lockhart 3, Jones 2, Sullivan 2, Dawson, Nelson, Sanchez. Team — 10.
Digs — Halterman 14, Dawson 13, Jones 10, Nelson 6, Targy 5, Sanchez 4, Sullivan 2, Lockhart, Thomas. Team — 56.
Aces — Peyton Crosser 3, Katie Soddy. Team — 4.
Kills — Shelby Lauterbach 14, Camila Araujo 6, Ramiah St. Fleur 4, Crosser 3, Mirela Vasconcelos 3. Team — 30.
Blocks — Crosser 5, Soddy 2, Vasconcelos 2, Araujo, Camila Leite, St. Fleur. Team — 12.