SUMNER — There’s nothing like jumping into a volleyball season like diving head-first into a pool.
Sumner-Fredericksburg held a triangular volleyball meet Thursday night in their home gymnasium against a pair of non-conference opponents. The Cougars invited Class 1A pre-season No. 6-ranked Tripoli and Crestwood into their den for an early-season showcase.
The home team came out of this high-pressure situation shining like diamonds with a pair of three-set victories. The Cougars opened with a sweep of the Cadets, 25-21, 25-14, 25-20, and closed with a hard-fought win over the Panthers, 25-19, 25-17, 26-24.
Meanwhile, Tripoli made equally short work of Crestwood, 25-15, 25-21, 25-14.
Cougar coach Tori Sorenson said the two matches were a great way to start the 2018 season.
“I think we’re already at a position this year where we are able to make adjustments that we weren’t able to do a year ago, and our volleyball IQ is a little higher than what we were at this point,” Sorenson said. “When you play quality competition — and Tripoli in this area is quality competition, where they are a perennial powerhouse, even if they are a division below us, it’s always tough competition — it’s a real good way for us to start our season, and a good confidence builder going forward.”
Tripoli coach Courtney Anderson said the Panthers faced two really good teams.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t come out on top, but we left it all out on the court,” Anderson said.
In the opening match, the Cadets came out with a 5-1 lead before the Cougars made their 12-4 run, spurred by multiple front-line winners, Crestwood errors and a pair of aces by libero Sydney Rhea.
The Cadets were able to even the set at 13 by winning four points in a row, with blocks by Sharon Goodman and Amiah DeWolf and an ace by Ashley Voves. But after the next four points were split, S-F made a run of three on kills by Jenna Pagel and Jordan Borrows and a Cadet attack that sailed long.
The teams traded points from there, before a net violation on set point by Crestwood gave the first set to the Cougars.
The second set was a bit more dominant for the home squad. After the Cadets had a 7-6 lead early, the Cougars closed on a 19-7 run to take the 2-0 advantage.
S-F led most of the way in the third frame, taking advantage after the score was 4-4 and led by no less than a point the rest of the way.
Borrows led the Cougar attack in match one with 10 kills, hitting at a .438 efficiency. She also led defensively with 10 digs and recorded an ace. The Cougars attacked at a .286 clip against the Cadets.
Setter Morgan Brandt put up 20 assists in the match and served three aces, while Rhea also had three unreturnable serves to go with eight assists.
Meanwhile, Crestwood hit .264 as a team, with Sharon Goodman leading with nine kills and had 1.5 blocks. Setter Laken Lienhard had 22 assists, while Voves dug up seven balls.
In the second match of the night, Tripoli started a tad slow against Crestwood, giving up a 7-2 lead, before eventually climbing back into it. Once it reached 10-10, the Panthers put down the hammer for a 15-5 run, including the last nine points to close the set.
In that final run, Zoe Semelroth had three kills in a span of four points, and libero Samara Harms had three aces.
Crestwood showed a little more spunk in the second set, taking brief leads of 11-10, 18-17 and 19-18 before Tripoli put together a 7-2 spurt to close out that game. It was highlighted by a block by Jetti Schmudlach and two Taylor Flaig kills.
The third set was all Panthers. They amassed a 21-6 lead and got to 24-10 before the Cadets tried to put up one last gasp. However a ball by Memphis Sweeney went into the net on the Panthers’ fifth match point ended the proceedings.
Anderson, the Panther coach, said her team meshed well against the Cadets.
“Our passers passed the ball, our setters put up a hittable ball, and our hitters just put it away,” she said.
The Panthers’ full stats were not available at press time for either match on quikstatsiowa.com.
The Cadets hit at a .170 clip, with Goodman leading with seven kills. Lienhard put up 22 assists, and Voves had six digs and three aces.
In the nightcap, the Cougars were able to take advantage in each of the first two sets, but weren’t able to run away and hide. In set one, they amassed an 11-4 lead before the Panthers put up a 8-1 run to tie it at 12.
However, Sumner-Fred grabbed the next five points, mostly on Tripoli errors but with Brandt winning a joust at the net and a block by Pagel mixed in.
Following a Cougar net violation, S-F went up 22-13 on a Panther back-row violation, an ace by Brandt, two Tripoli hitting errors and a Pagel kill. However, the visitors pulled closer with a 6-1 run to pull within 23-19 with Semelroth putting down a pair of spikes and a block and a couple of S-F errors.
But the set ended on kills by Burrows and Kiley Kime, 25-19.
The Cougars kept the momentum going into the second set, going up 14-6 before the Panthers were able to put up any semblance of a run. At 20-16, S-F put away the set on a 5-1 spurt.
The Panthers showed life in the third set, taking a 9-5 advantage early on. However, S-F bounced back to grab a 13-10 advantage midway through the frame.
Tripoli seemed to be poised to extend the match. A see-saw battle eventually led to a Panther set point at 24-22, but after Semelroth was whistled for a lift, the Cougars closed out the match.
A hitting error by the Panthers tied the match at 24, and another gave the Cougars match point at 25-24. Madelyn Nederhoff put it away with a spike along the sideline.
Sorenson said even though Tripoli is in Class 1A, there is tough competition all over Iowa.
“You look at Dike-New Hartford who beat the 4As and the 5As last year and all of the competition as well,” she said. “A 1A team is just as tough as a 3A, whoever it may be. Tripoli has that same type of ranking and the tradition.”
Burrows led the Cougar attack against the Panthers with 14 kills with a .231 efficiency. She also added four aces. Brandt had 28 assists and nine digs while also combining with Cassidy Pagel for two assisted blocks each. The Cougars hit at a .229 average.
Anderson, the Tripoli coach, said the credit goes to the Cougars.
“They were an all-around great team,” she said. “Beating a great team is hard. We definitely battled, and it was a great game.”
Sorenson said for her team to continue on Thursday’s high is to be consistent.
“When Tripoli was able to go on runs, we made our own mistakes, not that they didn’t force some of them, but we had some hitting errors back-to back-to-back,” she said. “We need to keep a few things on our defense with positioning, but it’s a great place to start and build upon.”