South Tama's varsity volleyball team struggled to finish sets Thursday and was nearly swept out of its own gym.
If not for a late rally in the second set, the Trojans might have lost three-straight sets to AGWSR, who entered the match with a 1-4 record. AGWSR finished the match by scoring six of the final seven points and beating STC 3-1.
"It was frustrating tonight," coach Michelle Bradley said. "We beat ourselves and our girls need to learn how to get tough mentally. It was a complete mental game tonight and they just broke down. I don't know how else to explain it. They just broke down.
South Tama junior Madison Baack (No. 2) sets the ball to fellow junior Samantha Holtz during Thursday’s contest. The Trojans fell to AGWSR in four sets.
"AGWSR wasn't giving us anything we weren't prepared for," she added. "They rolled shots off our hands, because that's what they prepared for. We need to figure it out and go."
South Tama began the night with a crushing defeat. AGWSR took control of the first set and never looked back. The Cougars built a big lead and finished the set with ease, winning 25-14.
The Trojans stormed back to start the second set as they led 8-0 early. Their offense began attacking and their energy level rose during the set. The Trojans maintained a lead and looked like they would close the set in control as they lead 20-15.
However, AGWSR came back quickly and tied the set at 24-24. AGWSR served on set point, leading 26-25, but an STC point tied the set. The Trojans closed the match on the next two points and won it 28-26.
"They did fight to win the second set, which was nice, but they still had some troubles upstairs," Bradley said. "They still had troubles up top."
South Tama appeared to have its confidence back and momentum on its side as it entered the third set. STC led early 5-2 and 10-7. Kills from senior Riley Craun and junior Trisha Walz, along with an ace from senior Shelby Bradley helped the Trojans increase its lead to 17-10.
AGWSR began chipping away at the lead and cut it to three, 21-18, but STC maintained the advantage at 23-20. The set looked to go to STC before the Trojans committed three unforced errors. AGWSR closed it out by scoring the final five points and won 25-23.
"We didn't move our feet or pass the ball very well," coach Bradley said of the third set. "We can't do that late in a set."
A quick 4-0 STC lead disappeared as fast as it came in the fourth set. The Trojans soon trailed 10-7 after four unforced errors. They fought back and tied it at 12-12 after a S. Bradley kill. The Trojans led 16-15 before AGWSR went on a 4-0 run. That run extended to a 10-2 run as AGWSR finished the match, with the help of four STC unforced errors.
"If there's a magic pill somewhere, I'll buy it," Bradley said of improving her players' mental toughness. "The mental aspect is the toughest thing to coach. What I always say is, 'it's not all about you. You have to come through and do it for your teammates. If it's not your game, suck it up. It's OK if it's not your game. Then you have to do something else for your team, instead of what your normally do, to bring your team up.
"I can't count how many serves we missed," she added. "We missed too many. I'm not going to count tonight."
South Tama fell to 6-3 on the season after the loss. STC hosted South Hardin on Tuesday and will travel to West Delaware for a tournament Saturday.
"They have to shake it off," Bradley said Thursday. "They get the weekend off and maybe that will help. Let's hope it will help."