By SCOTT JACKSON
Courier sports writer
---- — OTTUMWA — It might have been the most impressive effort of the entire season for the Indian Hills volleyball team. It led the Warriors to one of the few sweeps for IHCC so far in 2013.
But after making short work of a long trip north to Iowa Central, the Warriors found themselves in a much different match against a much tougher opponent upon its return to the Tom Arnold Net Center Monday. Still, IHCC showcased the resolve of a team that has at times shown it can hang with the best in the nation only to look somewhat unimpressive in losses to lackluster opposition.
The Warriors certainly were not lacking for effort against Missouri State-West Plains, a team with so much national tournament history it can be found on its home court, the site of numerous NJCAA National Volleyball Tournaments over the years. IHCC knows all about that history, having played at West Plains in the program’s only two national tournament trips.
The Grizzlies and Warriors battled in a match the national tournament longs to see each and every year. Missouri State-West Plains made the long drive to Ottumwa pay off with a thrilling five-game 16-25, 25-17, 26-24, 21-25, 15-12 win in a match that saw both teams score exactly 102 points over almost two full hours of action.
In the end, neither coach could be too unhappy with the effort given by both teams.
“We’ve had a long history with Indian Hills, but we’ve never had the opportunity to play here before,” Missouri State-West Plains head coach Paula Wiedemann said after her first trip to IHCC in 17 seasons as Grizzlies head coach. “I’m thrilled we made trip for the first time to start this home-and-home series this year. To come in here and win a game five against a team that was fighting for it, I’m really proud of our girls for fighting back and finding a way to pull this one out.”
IHCC’s second-year head coach, Lyndsey Lyon, had a slightly different reaction after looking at another close tale on the scoreboard after a match with the Grizzlies.
“I’ve played these guys three times in two years. Each time it’s been a five-game match usually with the fifth game decided by two or three points,” Lyon said. “I asked Coach Wiedemann afterwards when we’re going to start flipping this result around so we can win a few of these tight fifth games.”
Frankly, it didn’t appear there would even be a fifth game at various times on Monday. IHCC (11-12) stormed out of the locker room and owned the opening game, leading virtually the entire way on the way to a nine-point opener.
Missouri State-West Plains rallied back, leading almost all of game two to even the match with a 25-17 win. The Grizzlies led by five late in game three before a six-point run gave the Warriors a sudden game point before West Plains rallied again to take the lead in the match with a 26-24 win.
“It felt like we were still on the bus in game one. We didn’t feel like we were attacking or communicating,” Weidemann said. “We started to really pick it up and we were feeling pretty good about how we were playing going into game four.”
That momentum seemed to be what would propel the Grizzlies to a four-game win. West Plains jumped on top 13-4 in game four and led by five later when IHCC rallied to tie the game at 20-20 and finished the fourth off with five of the final six points to force the deciding game.
“I thought we were dead in the water with the way that fourth game started,” Lyon said. “For the girls to bear down and hang in there to earn that win, you can’t ask for a lot more than that.”
IHCC carried that momentum into the early portions of the fifth, scoring the first five points and holding off one charge by the Grizzlies to open an 11-7 lead. The constant attack of the Grizzlies, led by 22 kills from sophomore Helena Peric, proved to be too much as a final 8-1 run allowed West Plains (9-11) to head home with the hard-fought win.
“It was a good battle and I think it shows we are starting to put a consistent line-up out there,” Warrior freshman setter Katie Soddy said. “I know there were a few moments we got a little too comfortable, but it always feels good to rally back and force the fifth game from as far back as we were.”
Soddy was coming off her best performance of her young IHCC volleyball career on Friday. The Warriors 25-13, 25-22, 25-19 win in Fort Dodge over the Tritons featured a team-best 14 assists by the Milton, Wisconsin native.
Katie did a great job of spreading out the ball to get our hitters started off strong (against Iowa Central), Lyon said. “They never looked back after that. Our blocking was outstanding. If we weren't killing balls offensively, it was because our block didn't allow the ball to come over the net.”
Soddy continued to distribute the ball on Monday, setting seven other teammates for attacks while adding her own presence at the net. Soddy teamed with Peyton Crosser, who led IHCC with 15 kills and eight blocks, on several defensive stops at the net to help rally the Warriors into a fifth game.
“I’ve kind of haven’t been feeling as invested in the program at times being a freshman,” Soddy said after chipping in five blocks in the match. “As the year has gone on, I’ve felt a lot more dedication to Indian Hills and to play as tough as I can just like when I was in high school.”
Indian Hills is back on the floor this weekend at the East Central Tournament in Illinois. The Warriors will take on Lewis & Clark Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. before facing Mount Olive College at 6.
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Indian Hills 25-25-25
Iowa Central 13-22-19
Serving — Marlee Lindstrom 17-17, Peyton Crosser 15-15, Katie Soddy 11-13, Shelby Lauterbach 10-11, Kassidy Guihan 8-8, Kaylee Scholten 7-10. Team 68-74. Aces — Lindstrom 2, Lauterbach, Scholten. Team — 4.
Hitting — Lauterbach 26-32, Camila Araujo 16-24, Ramiah St. Fleur 15-16, Mirela Vosconcelos 12-12, Crosser 12-15, Scholten 2-2, Soddy 2-2. Team 85-103. Kills — Lauterbach 9, St. Fluer 9, Vosconcelos 5, Crosser 4, Vasconcelos 3, Soddy 2. Team — 32.
Setting — Soddy 14, Scholten 11, Crosser 4, Guihan 4, Vonconcelos 4, Araujo, Lindstrom, St. Fleur. Team — 40.
Blocks — Vosconcelos 7, Crosser 6, St. Fleur 5, Araujo 4, Lauterbach 2, Soddy 2. Team — 26.
Digs — Guihan 28, Lauterbach 15, Soddy 10, Lindstrom 8, Scholten 8, Crosser 6, Araujo 3, St. Fleur 3. Team — 81.