The arms and legs were flying all over the place instinctually and almost acrobatically on defense. The crowd, one of the largest of the year, was electric.
Yes, the Ottumwa High School volleyball team had powerful Des Moines Roosevelt where it wanted.
Then, it didn't. And the momentum shift was abrupt.
The Bulldogs battled back from a six-point deficit to lead late the opening game, but couldn't finish it off and Roosevelt responded for a 25-23, 25-10, 25-21 CIML Metro sweep on the Bulldogs' Senior Night, and once again claim the regular-season league championship.
"We were just reacting instead of thinking. We were so sure that first game was going the end the way we thought," Ottumwa coach Ruth Thomas said. "But it was a like a splash of cold water. It took everything we had just to get back in it."
The cold water was just the quencher for the Roughriders, who finished out the win, then jumped out to leads of 8-0 and 15-1 in the second game was Ottumwa had no answer for Roosevelt's serving or hitting. Roosevelt needed only long serving runs by Adrien Hanson and Tabby Keith to take a commanding lead.
"We couldn't receive the serve, we couldn't set and we couldn't hit," Thomas said. "Roosevelt put up a strong block in that game though. It's just frustrating for our seniors. I'm really proud of how we played. We played at a competitive level."
Roosevelt (17-13, 5-0 Metro) gradually pulled away in the third game, as a pair of kills by Rachel Galluzzo helped it take a 16-11 lead. The Bulldogs fought back within 20-19, but a clutch service ace and more well-placed hits carried the Roughriders to the win.
The Roughriders appeared in control of the first game up 18-12 before all the excitement. Ottumwa (18-15, 3-2) inched back within 21-20 on a kill by Ally Paris, then eventually led 23-21 on a kill by Chloe Schneckloth, forcing a Roosevelt timeout.
However, Roosevelt regrouped, took a 24-23 lead on an ace serve by Hanson, then won it on a kill by Galluzzo.
"It was one of those things where no one wanted to be the one to make a mistake, and we started thinking a little bit too much," Thomas said. "We didn't let our natural abilities finish the game."
Thomas expected a bit of a letdown in the second game, but not as precipitous as it was. Roosevelt spotted its serves well, hit balls that deflected off blocks and found holes in the back row in a commanding win.
"I was very impressed with their setter being able to take the ball off the back corner and really manage the ball," Thomas said. "That took us by surprise. We just weren't able to read it."
Thomas has been most appreciative of her seniors — varsity players Mercedes Coram, Kacy Nickerson and Katie Nelson, junior varsity player Monserrat Guerrero Chapula, and manager Madison Brandt.
"Most of them have played together since fifth grade, so they've had eight years of volleyball together," she said. "The groundwork for their success was laid then, and I'm pleased with where the program continues to go in the lower levels."
Ottumwa competes against Des Moines Lincoln and Des Moines East in the first round of pool play matches in the Metro tournament Thursday at Lincoln.
Des Moines Roosevelt 25-25-25, Ottumwa 23-10-21
Kills — Anne Guest 7, Ashley Jones 7, Kacy Nickerson 3, Ally Paris 3, Chloe Schneckloth 3, Katie Nelson
Assists — Emma Weilbrenner 9, Nelson 8, Mercedes Coram 3, Jones 2, Nickerson
Serving — Loren Egbert 11-11 (1 ace), Nickerson 1-1, Coram 7-7, Jones 9-9 (1 ace), Schneckloth 8-10 (1 ace), Weilbrenner 8-10, Guest 5-7
Blocks — Paris 2, Guest 2, Nickerson
Digs — Kiley Heller 10, Coram 7, Egbert 6, Schneckloth 6, Guest 4, Weilbrenner 3, Nelson 2, Paris
Records: Des Moines Roosevelt 17-13 (5-0), Ottumwa 18-15 (3-2).