WORTHINGTON -- In a high school volleyball match as entertaining, as dramatic and as well-played as any seen in Worthington perhaps for years, the Worthington Trojans fought and clawed to a 3-2 victory over Spirit Lake, Iowa, Thursday night at the local gym.
It was a hard-earned and well-earned victory by WHS, and a true team win. Scores were 24-26, 25-11, 25-21, 21-25 and 17-15.
Not bad for a Homecoming Week contest.
In the fourth set, Spirit Lake bounced back from a 13-8 deficit to even the match at 2-2. In the deciding fifth set, Spirit Lake led 15-14 before the Trojans scored the last three. Five-six senior hitter Brooklyn Scheitel-Taylor put WHS ahead 16-15 on a soft ace hit, then senior teammate Olivia Hayenga ended it with a tip ace that was unreturnable.
Scheitel-Taylor finished with a team-high 18 digs.
“We all just didn’t let the ball drop. We wanted it so bad. … We just didn’t break,” she said after the match. “We practice hard, game speed. Talking brings a lot of energy. It doesn’t seem like a big component, but it really makes or breaks games.”
Bumping, passing, setting, hitting, serving, keeping balls alive. The Trojans did it all against the Indians, and they needed to pull everything out of the hat to emerge victorious.
Addison Gerber had 45 set assists in the five-set match. Rarely did she make a set that wasn’t spot-on. Tarren Spartz was 28-for-30 serving with 22 points and six aces, and Karissa Maxwell was 20-for-22 with 11 points. Ellie Weg led the locals with 17 kills while Spartz had 14 and Madison Beckmann 10. Weg and Hayenga had 12 and 10 blocks, respectively. Spartz added 15 digs and Maxwell 10 as the ever-improving Trojans ran their record to 6-8.
“I thought we played a great match,” said veteran Worthington head coach Jessica Hogan. “Coming in, I thought we were very evenly matched with Spirit Lake and it could be a battle. And it turned out to be that way.”
She added: “We’ve been focusing a lot on our mental game. We’ve been talking about it in practice. We focus on positives, and you can bend and not break. When we figure out how not to break, we’re pretty darn good.”
A Spartz ace hit from the middle of the floor gave WHS a 22-18 lead in the first set, but the Indians turned the tables.
The second set demonstrated notable Trojans teamwork. Gerber served the first two points for a 2-0 WHS lead. Beckmann delivered an ace hit for 3-1, and Weg rammed home an ace block for 5-1. Meanwhile, Maxwell served her sixth straight point for 6-1, with Hayenga logging an ace block and Spartz a soft ace hit along the way. The Trojans never trailed in the set.
The combatants split games three and four -- either one which could have gone either way.
In the deciding set, Worthington scored a huge early point after a long and spirited rally -- punctuated by spectacular saves by both teams. The point was finally made by Hayenga on an ace block as the Homecoming crowd roared its approval.
The set was tied 8-8, 9-9 and 10-10. Gerber served for two points to make it 12-10. Spirit Lake tied it 12-12. Then Spartz scored on an ace hit for 13-12. Hayenga and Weg teamed up for an ace block for 14-12. It became 15-15 before Scheitel-Taylor’s lazy ace and Hayenga’s tip ace won the day.
The Trojans’ mental toughness was exceptional as anything else witnessed on the court.
“We actually do talk about it in practice. We do talk about mental toughness,” said Scheitel-Taylor, who added that she likes to play in tight contests.
“It makes my heart race, but these are the best kind to win,” she said.