REINBECK In a hot and humid gymnasium, South Tama County wasted no time in eliminating the hometown Rebels during Tuesday night's North Iowa Cedar League West Division match.
The Gladbrook-Reinbeck gym was a sauna for Tuesday's NICL contest. After waiting longer than usual to play its match, as the Rebels had only one court for the freshman and junior varsity matches, the STC varsity squad made sure to win its conference opener in three-straight sets.
"It''s nice to win in three tonight, especially because it's so hot," senior Trisha Walz said. "I don't know if five sets would have been very good, because we were getting pretty tired. It really drains you.
"Hopefully we can get every conference win," she said. "We want to be conference champs."
South Tama (5-3) didn't cruise to its victory over Gladbrook-Reinbeck (0-2). However, STC did win in three sets (25-21, 25-12, 25-18) to pick up its first conference victory.
"It was pretty important to come out and get a win tonight," STC head coach Michelle Bradley said. "They were pretty beat up about the losses to Hudson and North Polk on Saturday, so this win tonight was big. We didn't want to win little tonight. We wanted to win big.
"The first and third sets didn't start off the way we wanted, but they ended up favorable," she added. "It was also a later schedule tonight. We didn't get started until 7:45, when normally we're starting at 7:15. The girls pulled it out though."
Defeating the hometown Rebels in three sets and not allowing them back in the match was quite important to the South Tama players.
"That was definitely good to win in three," senior Emily Martin said. "It's hot. It's nice to get it done quick. The long-sleeve jerseys are very hot."
Both squads were involved in a dogfight in the first set Tuesday. South Tama took a quick 2-0 lead, but the Rebels responding with five-straight points before a kill from STC senior Paige Van Dyk. A kill from senior Tori Appelgate and a tip from senior Madison Baack helped STC take an 8-6 lead. The Lady Trojans expanded it to 14-10 after kills from Baack and Van Dyk, along with an ace from senior Trisha Walz.
Senior Samantha Holtz blocked the Rebels later in the set. She followed it up with a kill to give STC a 19-13 lead. STC continued pouring it on and later led 23-15. Then the Rebels rallied and gave STC a scare.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck scores six-straight points before a hitting error gave the Lady Trojans the serve at game point, 24-21. Van Dyk finished the set with a kill on the next point.
Confidence from the first set rolled into the second. South Tama opened a 7-2 lead behind two kills from Walz, a kill from Van Dyk and a Van Dyk ace. The Rebels made unforced errors and South Tama capitalized as it built a quick 13-4 lead.
"It's a game of momentum," Bradley said. "Fortunately, it went our way."
South Tama never gave Gladbrook-Reinbeck a chance to rally in the second set. A Van Dyk kill and a back row kill from Holtz gave STC a 12-point margin, 19-7. G-R scored four-straight points, closing the STC lead to 22-12. Then STC scored a trio of points to end the set. An Appelgate kill helped STC during the final points. Van Dyk again finished the set, but with an ace in the second set.
"We weren't flowing very well, but once we got it, we clicked," Walz said. "We just had to get that one play that gets us going again and then we get back in rhythm. We can't get caught up in everyone's cheering and get antsy."
Despite facing an 0-2 deficit, Gladbrook-Reinbeck wasn't rolling over and giving South Tama the victory. Gladbrook-Reinbeck battled tough and built a 9-5 lead early in the set. South Tama answered with two points, kills from Van Dyk and Appelgate. Then Gladbrook-Reinbeck rattled off four-straight points behind two kills.
"Communication is our number one key," Martin said. "We have to always be talking."
A 13-7 Rebels' lead wouldn't be enough to win the set. South Tama rallied with five-straight points. Van Dyk had two kills, while Appelgate and Holtz each earned a kill during the 5-0 stretch. The Rebels built the lead back to three, 16-13, before South Tama closed the set and match with a 12-2 run.
"It's nice when you can get down four or five and come back," Bradley said. "That just shows the character these girls have."
Holtz propelled the comeback with a tip that closed the lead to one point. Then Holtz served an ace, which was followed by a tip and kill from Walz. South Tama blocked a Rebels' attack, but the ball was deflect out of bounds, giving the Rebels their final point at 21-18. The next point was a long rally, where Holtz earned four digs to keep STC alive during the point, that STC finished with a kill from Emily Martin. The Rebels committed three unearned errors to give STC the set and match.
"We have to stay active in that front row and keep moving to pull blockers away, so we can stay aggressive and swing," Bradley said. "It seems like we get in trouble or something, I'm not sure, but we start tipping. That's not our game. Our game is to swing hard. I don't mind tipping in certain spots, but we did it too much tonight."
The Lady Trojans' coach was pleased with her team's performance and effort Tuesday.
"Overall, I thought we played well, but we still have a ways to go," Bradley said. "We have to learn to keep that intensity. Everybody can see it, but they have to feel it now. They have to feel themselves getting down, so they can get back up. That's just that mental game.
"Our passes were amazing tonight," she said. "I thought we passed really well. We were digging the ball really well. We are starting to see where we need to be off of our blockers. We also swung well, too."
Van Dyk led STC in kills with 10. Holtz added nine, while Walz earned eight. Baack recorded 19 assists on the night. Holtz (14), Walz (13) and sophomore Belle Tyynismaa (10) all had double-digit digs Tuesday.
South Tama played at AGWSR on Thursday in its second NICL contest. On Tuesday, STC will travel to Eldora to play South Hardin. The match will begin at 6 p.m. with the freshman and junior varsity teams. The varsity match will follow at 7:15 p.m.