By ROGER THOMAS
---- — BLOOMFIELD – Two perennial SCC volleyball rivals met Tuesday night in Bloomfield.
Marty Barnett’s Davis County Mustangs were hosting Gladys Genskow’s Class 2A No. 5 Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont Rockets. The teams met just three days earlier in the semifinals of the Ottumwa volleyball tourney. The Rockets downed the Mustangs 2-0 (both games being very close and competitive).
Last Friday night, Davis County took on 2A’s then-No. 6 (now No. 5) Albia Blue Demons in football and came within one point of the upset. That set the precedent for a Mustang team to give a rated opponent almost more than they bargained for.
The Mustangs took game one 25-21 from the fifth-rated Rockets, lost games two and three by the scores of 25-12 and 25-10, before roaring back in the fourth game to nearly tie the match and force an all-or-nothing fifth game. E-B-F hung on for the 26-24 match ender.
So often, when the underdog is playing at home, their adrenaline gets them off to a fast start. Davis County led from start to finish in the 25-21 win.
“Our crowd is so great,” said Barnett. “Our crowd, in this gym, makes us really tough to beat.”
An ace serve, followed by two more service winners by Kate Birchmier, gave the Mustangs a quick 3-0 lead.
The play at the net by the visitors started to come to the forefront and would later dominate the match. In game one, the Mustangs overcame 11 kills by the Rockets including seven by Tasha Alexander. The Rockets’ Karlie Taylor and McKinley Moore combined for five blocks.
Davis County pulled out the game win by only missing one serve and going 28 for 29 hitting.
Back-to-back winners by Rylee Eakins put the Mustangs up 7-3. Three consecutive kills by Alexander kept the Rockets close at 12-10. She would be back at it later with four consecutive winners. Her final big hit went over the double block to find the floor. DC led 21-18 at that point.
“I think the perfect set gets me started sometimes,” said Alexander. “When I get one big hit, I just rely on my experience in other big situations to keep on a roll.”
The Mustangs didn’t have as many kills as the Rockets in game one, but a couple of big ones late in the game by Megan Joos and Eakins helped close it out.
Games two and three were dominated by EBF. Eakins started game two with a down-the-line kill, but after that it was all Rockets. Karlie Taylor’s second kill of the game gave EBF a 3-1 lead.
During the middle of game two, Haegen Boyer gave the Rockets a big boost with a six-point service run that put EBF up 14-5. Bang, bang, bang and game two was over. Taylor, Alexander, and Sadie Baugher had three consecutive kills to end it.
Five early service points by Boyer got EBF off to a quick 6-0 lead in game three. Baugher’s five-point service run finished off the Mustangs.
“We served a lot better in games two and three,” said Genskow.
Eakins led the Mustang hitting in the third with two kills but the three-headed attack of Alexander, Taylor, and Taylor Leffler was too much for the Mustang defense.
“They just have a bunch of girls with good size and they do a good job of placing the ball and seeing the holes in the block,” said Barnett.
Alexander had the big hitting start for EBF. After her big winner off a double block, the visitors led 5-0.
Taylor picked it up mid-game and registered five kills and a block to put EBF up 22-10.
The intensity really picked up in game four, with EBF trying to close out the match and Davis County clawing back from an early deficit to take the lead late. If not earlier, it became evident that it took real courage to dig or block.
Once again the Rockets went up early on a service run by Haegen Boyer (5-0). Leffler had a kill and two blocks at the outset. EBF extended the lead to 15-8 before the Mustangs started to be more aggressive with the serve. Seven service points by Joos helped the Mustangs grab the lead at 16-15. Eakins had three big winners – her kill at the net gave the Mustangs the lead.
Eakins and Taylor would go back and forth with big hits as the teams traded the lead. Taylor had four big hits and a block winner as the visitors tied it a 22.
“It’s only natural to look across the net and see who you might have to match up with,” said Taylor. “That gets me going but sometimes I just really pick it up to do more when I’m frustrated with how we’re playing.”
Birchmier and Eakins combined to give the Mustangs their last lead at 24-23.
EBF setter, Paige Shafer, had a number of hitters she could go to throughout the match. Four different hitters had between four and 16 kills.
“We’ve played together a lot and every one of our hitters gives us the opportunity to score,” said Shafer. “I trust them all.”
An Alexander kill tied it at 24 and a block winner by Taylor ended the 26-24 game four win.
Fifth-ranked (2A) E-B-F goes to (22-2, 3-0) with the win.
“We got a little too relaxed and over played the ball in game four,” said Genskow. “We are still looking for an entire match in which we are mentally tough.”
Davis County stands at (13-10, 2-1) after the loss.
“I really saw some positive things from the girls tonight,” said Barnett. “There were chances in games two and three where we could have quit. We didn’t and gave a great effort all the way through the match.”
Serving – Tasha Alexander 10/13, Sadie Baugher 18/19, Taylor Leffler 6/10, Karlie Taylor 11/14, Paige Shafer 12/13, Haegen Boyer 27/28. Team 84/97. Aces – Alexander, Taylor 2. Team – 3.
Hitting – Taylor 41/47, Leffler 11/15, Baugher 15/16, Alexander 39/44, McKinley Moore 5/6, Boyer 1/1. Team 112/129. Kills – Taylor 16, Leffler 4, Baugher 4, Alexander 16. Team – 40.
Setting – Shafer 55. Team – 58.
Blocks – Taylor 6, Leffler 7, Baugher, Alexander, Moore 4. Team – 19.
Digs – Taylor 23, Alexander 13. Team – 61.
Davis County Statistics
Serving – Kate Birchmier 12/12, Megan Joos 19/21, Janel Fenton 11/12, Rylee Eakins 10/11, Lauren Lynch 6/7, Shelby Graves 9/9. Team 67/72. Aces – Birchmier, Joos 2. Team – 3.
Hitting – Lynch 17/18, Fenton 1/2, Graves 11/12, Joos 14/21, Eakins 42/45, Mallory Wells 4/5, Birchmier 22/24. Team 111/127. Kills – Lynch, Joos, Eakins 10, Wells, Birchmier 3. Team – 16.
Setting – Graves 22. Team – 24.
Blocks – Eakins 3, Wells, Birchmier 4. Team – 8.
Digs – Lynch 14. Team – 57.