Eagles fly past Rebels, 3-1
EDGERTON -- Jada Vander Veen said she and her Southwest Christian volleyball teammates were thinking about their match against Murray County Central for "two weeks."...
EDGERTON -- Jada Vander Veen said she and her Southwest Christian volleyball teammates were thinking about their match against Murray County Central for "two weeks."
Her teammate, Kara Van Dyke, said it was "a week, and then some."
SWC coach Delaine Vander Woude said it's been in the back of her players' minds for "probably 10 days."
The only undefeated teams remaining in the Red Rock Conference met for the first time in front of a packed gymnasium in Edgerton. After a long wait, the excitement and anticipation culminated Thursday night in a 3-1 (27-25, 25-20, 23-25, 25-21) victory for the Eagles.
"It was huge," Vander Veen said. "Everybody's been talking about this match for a long time, so it was exciting.
"We were waiting for this match."
The junior outside hitter had a match-high 16 kills to help SWC penetrate one of the conference's toughest and scrappiest defenses.
The Rebels all year have relied on their speed and defense to make up for what they lack in size.
MCC has just three players taller than 5-foot-8, including middle blocker Emily Bose, who's listed at 6-1. SWC, on the other hand, has six, including four players listed at 6-0 or taller.
"We knew it would be tough because they were undefeated also, and we knew we had to come in and play hard and play our best," Vander Veen said. "We knew they could dig out almost anything."
SWC's height and length appeared to be too much Thursday night.
Van Dyke (6-1) and Brianna Spronk (6-0) each had 14 blocks and forced MCC to change its method of attack.
"They're good blockers," said MCC coach Donna Johansen, who added that her team attempted more tips Thursday night than it has all season. "We dug it up, but we weren't attacking as much as we'd like."
Still, with their speed, athleticism and scrappiness, the Rebels stuck with the Eagles for most of the match.
"I would have to say they are (the best defense we've played) because they never give up," Vander Woude said, referring to MCC. "Some teams kind of just go toward the ball, but they go after the ball."
SWC led by as many as five points in Game 1, but the Rebels battled back and eventually tied the game at 25-25. But Van Dyke recorded an ace block, and Angie Vermeer won the game on the next point on a vicious hit that caromed off Kate Robinson's arms and into the stands.
The Eagles trailed 9-7 early in the second game, but an ace tip by Vermeer sparked an 11-4 run. SWC never trailed again, won the second game with relative ease and appeared to be on its way to a shocking sweep.
MCC wouldn't go away.
With the third game tied at 23-23, Bose delivered a kill to give MCC a game-point opportunity.
On the ensuing side-out, Bose recorded back-to-back blocks, with the second going for an ace, keeping the Rebels alive.
The rally was short-lived.
The Rebels never led in the fourth game. Although they fought back from a nine-point deficit to pull to within 23-21, they were forced to watch as SWC celebrated its biggest win of the season after Abby Hanenburg followed a Vermeer kill with an ace block.
"We knew -- and we were hoping -- it would be a close battle, and our team pulled together well," Vander Woude said. "I'm really, really proud of our girls; they played with a lot of heart tonight.
"Tonight definitely was our highlight (of the season) so far."
Kayla Broekhuis had 29 set assists, and Vermeer had 14 digs and 10 aces to lead the Eagles (18-4, 10-0), who extended their winning streak to six matches.
Robinson had 14 kills and four blocks, and Alyssa Schmidt added a match-high 30 set assists for the Rebels (16-5, 9-1), who entered the contest having won 14 of their past 15 matches and 37 of their past 39 games.
Bose added nine blocks but was held to just one kill.