LE GRAND It was a close, three-set match Tuesday night, but South Tama County's volleyball squad remained unbeaten in conference play as it eyes a possible Oct. 15 home contest for the title.
A quick surge helped the Lady Trojans separate themselves during the first two sets and dominance early in the third set propelled them to a sweep over rival East Marshall. The Lady Trojans won 25-21, 25-18 and 25-20 over the Mustangs.
"I thought we played well," STC coach Michelle Bradley said. "I thought at times we played all right. There were times that I thought 'oh goodness', but then the girls would pull it right back together and get a point or nice run."
Tuesday's victory improved South Tama to a 14-7 overall record and 5-0 in the North Iowa Cedar League West Division. If STC can defeat BCLUW at home next week, it could host Grundy Center on Oct. 15 in a match to decide the NICL West championship. It will also be STC's Senior Night.
"I think we learned Saturday we could play with anybody," Bradley said. "It doesn't matter who we play. In our minds, they are thinking, 'Bring on Union or Grundy Center.' I think we have gotten over that mental hump."
On Saturday, South Tama avenged a previous loss to Hudson, who entered the STC Invitational ranked. South Tama also beat East Marshall during its home tournament and used its knowledge from that match in Tuesday's road contest.
East Marshall senior Claire Johnson had six of the Mustangs' 19 kills Saturday, so the Lady Trojans aimed to stop her in the conference matchup.
"We knew that their No. 6 (Johnson) was pretty tough," Bradley said. "We had to kind of shut her down, but I felt like they didn't utilize her very much. The big thing was when she was in front, I wanted our girls on her. I wanted our girls to get up and block her and don't give her any confidence."
South Tama's plan worked as Johnson wasn't much of a factor in the match. Meanwhile, STC seniors Trisha Walz and Samantha Holtz led their team with 14 and 12 kills, respectively. They came through with timely kills throughout the match.
Both seniors were big factors in the Lady Trojans hanging on to win the first set. It was neck-and-neck early until the Lady Trojans pulled ahead 14-10. They maintained a small margin throughout the remainder of the set until Holtz scored three of STC's final six points, including the final point, with kills.
South Tama raced out to a 10-5 lead in the second set, despite giving East Marshall four of its five points with missed serves. However, kills from Holtz, Walz and senior Paige Van Dyk helped STC build that lead.
East Marshall hung tough and South Tama never again led by more than four points until after the Mustangs closed STC's lead to 20-18. Following a Mustangs' long serve and hit into the net, Holtz spiked a ball for a kill and sophomore Belle Tyynismaa served an ace. East Marshall spiked the ball out of bounds to end the set.
"We got in a rhythm when we needed to get into a rhythm," Bradley said. "Then (East Marshall) kind of shut down for a bit and we'd come right back with a big point. We are improving and we should start peaking about now."
The third set was on pace to be a blowout before the Lady Trojans pulled out some starters and gave younger players a chance on the court. They built a 7-1 lead that turned into a 19-5 advantage behind a strong, aggressive offense.
STC juniors Catie Collins and Alana Vest each served an ace during the third set before East Marshall rallied and closed the lead to 23-18. Junior Laurel Scharnweber added a kill for the Lady Trojans. Vest finished the set and match with a kill.
"We had a nice little cushion to play with in that set," Bradley said. "I have confidence in every girl that's sitting on that bench to go in and take care of business.
"I was happy with them," she added. "They were pumped to get in there. I think the nerves got a hold of them for a bit, but I was going to let them finish. I wasn't going to make any subs, because I knew they could finish."
Baack led the Lady Trojans with 27 assists Tuesday. Junior Sadie Kavalier recorded the only block and Tyynismaa led the team with two aces. Walz and Holtz had 10 and nine digs, while Tyynismaa and senior Tori Appelgate each had eight and seven digs. Van Dyk added five kills for STC.
"Oh yeah, absolutely, we were aggressive," Bradley said. "I thought Maddie Baack did a great job. If we were wrong footed or out in the back row, she could just sense that tonight and she'd set the back row. She did a really good job of mixing that ball up. Kudos to her because she ran a great offense tonight."