Slowly but surely, the Indian Hills volleyball team is closing the gap with their lone regional rival.
On Tuesday night against fourth-ranked Iowa Western, the Warriors showed several times they could catch the Reivers. Getting ahead and staying ahead of the 30-2 Reivers, however, is a whole different story.
IHCC forged 20 ties over three games in their sophomore night showdown with Iowa Western on Tuesday night, held as much as a six-point lead and even scored a pair of set points in the opening game. All those obstacles were easily overcome by the Reivers, who met the challenge of the upstart Warriors and left the Tom Arnold Net Center with a 27-25, 25-19, 25-22 win.
It may not have been easy, but the Reivers rolled on to their 10th straight win in an effort that figures to bolster the late-season hopes of a national title contender.
“It was a great, great match. I’m really impressed with what kind of team Indian Hills has become,” Reivers head coach Darrin McBroom said. “They really made us work for this one.”
The loss wasn’t for a lack of effort from the Warriors, who were nearly perfect serving (65-67) and nearly as dominant at the net with 32 kills against the Reivers. In the end, IHCC gave one of their best efforts of the season in their final home match.
Iowa Western was just a little bit better.
“I didn’t have anything bad to say about how our team played. All in all, our girls played great volleyball,” Warriors head coach Lyndsey Lyon said. “We knew what to expect from them coming in and we were very aggressive. We were ready for them. We just fell a little bit short.”
“Everyone played hard out there. That’s all you can ask for,” sophomore Arika Johnson added.
Between the challenge of beating their highly-ranked rival for the first time since 2005 and the emotion of sophomore night, IHCC came out with plenty of intensity against the Reivers. Iowa Western met the challenge early on, scoring the first three points of the match while leading most of game one.
That lead, however, was gone when three straight service points by Victoria Ita gave IHCC their first lead of the night at 21-20. After splitting the next six points, the Warriors found themselves serving for the first set.
Iowa Western responded at the net. Sophomore outside hitter Sarah Kemp came up with a pair of late-game kills to rally the Reivers, who capitalized on their second set point opportunity to take a 31-minute opening game, 27-25.
“Whenever we’re behind, our motto is always ‘one point at a time,’” Kemp said. “We just focus on winning the next point. We’re not satisfied with just one point. We’re always focused on winning the next point as well.”
“Some of the hits we had you’d think would go down for a kill and their liebro would come out of nowhere to keep it alive,” IHCC sophomore Emily Eswonia added. “If we could have gotten a couple of those points and gotten that first game, it could have been a whole different match.”
Serving catapulted Iowa Western twice in the final two games. Sophomore Emily Jones strung together six straight service points to stake Iowa Western to a quick 11-4 lead in game two on the way to Iowa Western’s 25-19 win.
Jones came up with another big service run as Iowa Western faced their biggest deficit of the night. Down 14-8 in game three, Jones served up six more points in a row as Iowa Western retook the lead on the way to a match-clinching 25-22 win.
“I knew we needed a run in that game. We were down and we needed to come back,” Jones said. “I just wanted to get my team a few points, hopefully get some aces and hopefully get our team back to winning the game.”
In their final match at home, several departing sophomores led IHCC against the fourth-ranked Reivers. Emily Eswonia was a perfect 14-14 serving, Ailime deFreitas had 31 assists and Jessi Black dug out 17 of Iowa Western’s laser serves and hits in the match.
“I had so much fun playing here. I love playing with these girls,” Eswonia said. “It’s sort of sad that this was the last home match, but I had a lot fun this season.”
“This is a great team with a lot of great freshmen,” Johnson added after leading IHCC at the net going 21-23 hitting. “I think this program is going to continue to do some special things.”
IHCC (21-6) will hope to build toward something special in the final weeks of this regular season, which will continue next week at the Kishwaukee Tournament in Rockford, Illinois. The Warriors may get another shot at Iowa Western this season as the two teams could meet, like last year, in the super regional tournament with a berth in the national tournament on the line.
“You never know what might happen. Maybe we’re just starting to peak. Maybe (Iowa Western) already has,” Lyon said. Hopefully we’ll get that opportunity to see.”
Iowa Western 27-25-25
Indian Hills 25-19-22
Serving — Emily Eswonia 14-14, Ailime deFreitas 12-12, Arika Johnson 12-12, Cristaine Vosconcoles 7-8, Shelby Lauterbach 6-6, Peyton Crosser 6-7, Victoria Ita 5-5, Carla Novaes 3-3. Team 65-67. Aces — Lauterbach. Team — 1.
Hitting — Johnson 21-23, Eswonia 18-21, Crosser 18-23, Novaes 11-12, Vosconcoles 10-11, deFreitas 4-4, Kassidy Guiham 1-1, Ita 1-1, Lauterbach 1-2, Jessi Black 0-1. Team 85-99. Kills — Crosser 8, Eswonia 6, Johnson 6, Vosconcoles 5, Novaes 4, deFreitas 3. Team — 32.
Setting — deFreitas 31, Black. Team — 32.
Blocks — Crosser 3, Vosconcoles 3, deFreitas 2, ita 2. Team — 10.
Digs — Black 17, Eswonia 16, deFreitas 11, Crosser 4, Taylor Delaney 4, Johnson 3, Guiham 2, Ita 2, Novaes 2, Vosconcoles 2, Lauterbach. Team — 64.