NEWTON – Even after winning the Ottumwa tournament title two weeks ago, following in the tradition of the program's four state tournament-qualifying teams, Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont head volleyball coach Gladys Genskow still wasn't convinced the 2021 Rockets were ready to start making plans to compete in Cedar Rapids in early November.
"To be in that position years ago, we had some things that we don't have yet this season," Genskow said. "We're working on it, but until we get there, you really can't say you're going to be able to get past the teams you need to beat to get to state."
The 11th-ranked (3A) Rockets may have made a turning point as a team this weekend in Newton, claiming five consecutive wins including a two-set sweep of 15th-ranked (4A) Winterset and a third straight victory over South Central Conference rival Davis County in a match that once again was decided in a final set. EBF edged the Mustangs 21-18, 19-21 and 15-12 while sweeping Ottumwa (21-17, 21-15), No. 15 (4A) Winterset (21-15, 24-22) and Lynnville-Sully (21-11, 21-7).
The Rockets added a three-set win (21-19, 13-21, 15-9) over Newton to complete a perfect day playing shorthanded. EBF had just seven players that contributed to the five victories on Saturday.
"I felt we played very consistent. We only had one set with Newton that we didn't play well right after the break, but overall for the day we played well enough to win all five matches," EBF head volleyball coach Gladys Genskow said. "We still are a work in progress seeking to improve in our passing and communication. We will continue to keep working hard at practice to improve along with each time we step on the court.
Molly Shafer, the top attacker in Class 3A led EBF with 66 kills in the tournament on 114-129 hitting. The Rocket freshman is currently tied for third-most kills among all high school volleyball players in all classes with 353 kills so far this season.
Kate Shafer, Molly's twin sister, dished up 102 assists throughout the tournament. Sarah Schutt led EBF defensively with 26 digs and six blocks.
Whitney Klyn served up a tournament-best 10 aces for EBF. Jenna Rodwell, filling in for the Rockets, led EBF in serving going 45-47 on the day with four aces, one assist and 16 digs.
"I'm so proud of this team for their hard work and pursuit to win each match," Genskow said. "The support they give to each other on and off the court is amazing. I am excited to see where we land for tournament play."
Ottumwa swept Lynnville-Sully (21-12, 21-10) and picked up a thrilling win of their own on Saturday, rallying for a 16-21, 21-14, 15-9 win over Newton. Davis County was able to knock off the Bulldogs for the third time this season, sweeping OHS 21-9 and 21-14 preventing Ottumwa from challenging for the tournament title.
Rylea Hinebaugh led Ottumwa throughout the tournament, collecting a team-best 59 assists and nine aces on 42-43 serving. Kennedy Hugen led Ottumwa at the net, slamming home 24 kills on 60-75 hitting.
Kiley Heller led the Bulldogs with 56 digs on Saturday. Ella Allar finished the tournament with a team-leading eight blocks for OHS.
The Mustangs picked up three wins on Saturday, sweeping Newton (21-19, 21-15) and Lynnville-Sully (21-9, 21-13) before dropping a tough battle with No. 15 (4A) Winterset 21-18 and 25-23. Sophia Young paced the Mustangs throughout the day at the net, collecting a team-best 29 kills on 67-78 hitting while Chloe Fetcho went 36-38 serving, finishing with a team-best 88 assists in five matches.
Maddie Wagler led Davis County with six ace serves in the tournament. Kara Greiner collected a team-best 49 digs for the Mustangs while Kallie Greiner led the team with eight blocks.
EBF (25-3) heads to Chariton on Tuesday seeking to clinch at least a share of the South Central Conference title while Davis County (23-8) hosts Clarke hoping to finish SCC play with a 5-1 record, hoping that Chariton and Clarke can upset EBF in order to hand the Mustangs the outright conference crown. Ottumwa (7-16), meanwhile, continues its pursuit of the CIML Metro conference championship at Des Moines Lincoln on Tuesday.