Shortly after the Waverly-Shell Rock volleyball team's Tuesday match against Oelwein — a 3-0 home victory for the Go-Hawks that looked easy on the surface — head coach EaVon Woodin had a simple, yet crucial, message.
"We just have to learn that whoever you play, you've got to be ready for it and be consistent and focused," Woodin said.
Woodin said this because despite her side owning an advantage over Oelwein in just about every way, it didn't appear that way on the court early in the match.
See, coming into Tuesday, the Go-Hawks boasted a 19-3 record, the best in Class 4A. Meanwhile, Oelwein came in winless: 0-15, in the cellar of Class 3A. W-SR has more kills, sets, aces — you name it.
Yet when the teams took the court and the match began, none of that mattered. The Huskies didn't play like a winless team — they played like one planning on leaving Waverly with a win.
W-SR ultimately emerged as the winner in straight sets — 25-14; 25-7; 25-10 — and improved to 20-3 this season, but it wasn't without some drama.
In a competitive first set, the teams traded blows, alternating points and running out to a 7-7 tie. While the Go-Hawks slowly gained an edge and took the first set 24-14, Oelwein made it closer than anyone could've imagined.
Woodin attributed the slow start to a few factors, one being that the team just came back from a tiring trip.
"It's hard to come back from a tournament and play consistently all night and stay focused, but I thought they did a better job once the match went on," Woodin said. "I also realized that some of those kids had never played in front of the home crowd, the ones who didn’t start last year. So that’s a little different for them to be at home and have the student body there watching you."
"We were a little surprised how tight the game was," said senior Jazlyn Westmoreland, who led the team with nine kills.
When the second set began, Oelwein kept fighting like it did in the first and even gained an early 7-6 lead. Unfortunately for the Huskies, all of their good fortune ended then and there. From that point on, W-SR won 19 straight points to take the second set 25-7, showing the dominance of a 19-3 team.
"We came out with more energy and communication the next few sets," Westmoreland said. "We just came out knowing that what we had was good enough and we could play to our level."
In the third and final set, the Go-Hawks put on the cruise control, winning 25-10 in a set that included a run of five straight points.
Woodin credited sophomore Ashli Harn, who took control of the match in the latter two sets.
"It ended up — Ashli served most of those points for us, both in the second and third sets," Woodin said. "She does a nice job of keeping the ball in play and moving it around. Once they gave us a free ball back, we took care of it with our quicks and had good front roll hitting."
Next up, the Go-Hawks face Boone High School.