GREENFIELD — Class 1A 14th-ranked East Union was pushed to the limit by Nodaway Valley Tuesday in a two-hour battle that went into extended points in the fifth set.
The Eagles, now 11-2, trailed 2-1 in the match before rallying for a 25-27, 25-17, 22-25, 25-20, 20-18 victory in front of a revved up crowd in the Nodaway Valley gym.
“I’m still shaking,” said East Union coach Gail Thatcher to assistant coach Rochelle Means as the players celebrated and marched off to the dressing room.
“I knew it was going to be a battle,” Thatcher said. “Nodaway Valley always steps up their game when we walk into their gym.”
Nodaway Valley coach Allison Kilburz was proud that her team didn’t wilt against a team with a much better record. In fact, the Wolverines held service and match point at 15-14, 16-15, 17-16 and 18-17 but were held off each time by the Eagles.
Finally, East Union sophomore hitter Alissa Weinkoetz delivered three terminating attacks down the stretch, including one on the final service point by Lauren Mitchell for the 20-18 triumph.
Weinkoetz finished with 19 of the Eagles’ 40 kills. Rakenzy Pryor and Olivia Eckels each had eight kills.
“It was going back and forth the whole time,” Kilburz said. “A lot of times it wasn’t errors. It was just who was going to get up and finish the ball. They had girls at the end who stepped up and did that. They have some hard hitters.”
In the early going, Nodaway Valley was hot at the service line and used a varying attack against the blocking of the likes of Weinkoetz and Rakenzy Pryor. Nodaway Valley freshman setter Lexi Shike mixed it up, frequently flicking quick tips to openings instead of setting up a hitter. And, senior Jodi Baudler worked effectively against the taller Eagles with a team-high 11 kills along with 15 digs.
“They knew we were here to block, so they were working on moving over the top of us to different spots,” Thatcher said.
Sadie Marnin added 10 kills for the Wolverines.
Nodaway Valley started the season with eight losses and a forfeit win against Fort Dodge. Since then, the Wolverines have gone 3-3 to stand at 4-11 going into Thursday’s match against Panorama.
“We played a lot of tough competition at the beginning of our season and I think it has prepared us well for our conference games,” Kilburz said. “It shows. Here, they (Eagles) are a ranked team and they came out and showed it with energy and making you work for every point. But, I felt that was the same on both sides tonight. We had great support from our crowd and our teammates.”
Down 2-1, East Union’s serving improved in the 25-20 fourth set to force the fifth set battle.
The Wolverines held an early 6-4 lead, but East Union came back to go in front 9-6.
Once it got to 10-10, it became a matter of which team could eventually open up the required two-point lead down the stretch.
Finally, with her team trailing 18-17, Weinkoetz slammed a kill to the middle to tie it, then ended a long rally with another kill for 19-18, and finished it with the final kill of the night after Mitchell’s serve.
“It was a tough battle,” Kilburz said. “We had freshmen in there and it was a situation where you could be scared and back off, but that did not happen.”
From Thatcher’s viewpoint, it was a matter of survival in a tough road test.
“We have some hitters who are young or relatively new to varsity so we’re going to make some of those mistakes,” Thatcher said. “But we were attacking the ball there in those final two sets. And our defensive players in the back were working their butts off — Callie Gossman, Jayden Welcher and Mikala Sanson off the bench. This was definitely anybody’s game tonight.”
Serving (aces) — EU: Alissa Weinkoetz 11-16 (5), Lauren Mitchell 17-18 (2), Megan Mitchell 19-25 (2), Callie Gossman 16-16 (1), Olivia Eckels 18-20 (1). NV: Kate Jensen 16-17 (5), Natalie Yonker 14-14 (2), Lexi Shike 21-23 (1), Joslyn Christensen 10-13, Jodi Baudler 10-12 (1).
Attacks (kills) — EU: Weinkoetz 27-40 (19), Rakenzy Pryor 28-32 (8), Eckels 25-27 (8), Anna Collins 10-12 (1), Cassidy Riley 7-11 (1). NV: Jodi Baudler 26-35 (11), Sadie Marnin 21-30 (10), Corrine Bond 8-14 (6), Lexi Shike 13-17 (5), Briana Lilly 7-11 (3), Brittany Smith 6-10 (2).
Blocks (solo-assists) — EU: Pryor 1-3, Weinkoetz 1-1, Eckels 1-1, M. Mitchell 1-1. NV: Smith 0-1, Bond 0-1.
Setting (assists) — EU: M. Mitchell 30. NV: Shike 28, Marnin 2.
Digs — EU: Eckels 22, Gossman 21, L. Mitchell 15. NV: Marnin 24, Jensen 20, Baudler 15, Yonker 13.