Harlan held off a late charge by Creston in the third set to complete a 25-19, 25-20, 26-24 Hawkeye 10 volleyball sweep Thursday on Creston’s senior night.
Breanna Ross, Taylor Buxton and Megan Haley were all part of a Panther rally in the third set and nearly saw their home career extend at least one more set after the Cyclones appeared to be cruising to the sweep, up 22-15.
The Panthers finally got a sideout and then sophomore Samantha Dunphy, making her return from an extended illness, rattled off six straight service points to knot the set at 22-22.
Buxton fired an ace serve for a 24-23 Creston advantage and was serving set point when the Cyclones came out of a timeout and scored three unanswered points to secure the win. Anna Ahrenholtz’s kills gave Harlan a 25-24 edge and Kara Weis ended a big night with an ace serve.
Weis finished with 36 setting assists and 10 digs for the Cyclones, who improved to 16-18 while finishing Hawkeye 10 play at 5-5.
“That last set gives you nightmares of last year when we were up 22-16 on Kuemper and they rattled off nine straight points on us,” said Harlan coach Willie Baughman. “You don’t like to get into that situation, but it was good to see us come out of the timeout and finish it out.”
Baughman was pleased with his team’s balance at the net. Coming in, senior Olivia Petersen was the team’s leader with 194 kills. She had a lot of help Tuesday, as her team-high 13 kills was followed closely by Ahrenholtz and Hayley Hopkins with 10 each.
“That was probably one of the best matches that Hayley Hopkins has played for us,” Baughman sad. “We kind of spread the ball around more tonight. Everybody really stepped up.”
Creston co-coach Mallory Peterson said the Panthers had prepared for a Cyclone attack that could come from several different spots, but the plan wasn’t executed well. Overall, Creston had just a .190 kill efficiency and struggled in serve receive.
“They aren’t a team that has a big go-to girl like some of the Hawkeye 10 teams,” Peterson said. “They distribute the ball well and we talked about that. On defense we were playing a little cat and mouse, not trusting ourselves or our teammates. The confidence wasn’t there tonight.”
Co-coach Naomi Sharp said defense was the key to the late rally in set three, but not consistent enough to counter the Cyclones’ varied attack.
“It was kind of a lot of reaching in and trying to help at the last second,” Sharp said. “If your body isn’t behind your arms, it’s not going to be a great pass. Kelsey (Fields) seemed back on for us, but we were only getting the ball to her three times when she was in the front row because our passing wasn’t on.”
Fields, who missed an earlier 2-0 loss to Harlan in the Glenwood tournament with a shoulder injury, had a team-high 12 kills Tuesday. Emma Hanson was also active with eight kills.
Still, Creston played on even terms with Harlan midway through all three sets. The Panthers led 16-13 and was tied 17-17 in the first set before falling 25-19. Hanson’s kill to the middle of the floor gave Creston an 8-4 lead early in set two, and it was still tied 14-14 before the Cyclones finished on a 9-6 run. Then the Panthers seemed listless in trailing 15-8 and 22-15 before staging the near comeback in the final set.
“We started off every set not too bad until about eight or night (points),” Peterson said. “This week we talked about how our last few matches have been with runs of five or six points for them, getting stuck in serve receive. We got out of system a lot and saw it happen again.”
Ross, who surpassed 1,000 career setting assists last weekend, had 31 in her final home match. She also served 12-of-12 with an ace. Haley served 8-of-8 and matched libero MaKenna Hudson with 12 digs. Buxton added 11 digs. Hudson also served 11-11. In her return, Dunphy served 6-7 and had the team’s only solo block.
Both Creston coaches reflected on the careers of Ross, Haley and Buxton as the team heads into regional tournament play next week.
“Those are big shoes to fill,” Sharp said.
“You’re talking about three six-rotation players,” Peterson said. “Throughout their careers, they’ve been pretty consistent in all phases.”
UP NEXT — Creston, now 10-17 overall and 2-7 in league play, finished the Hawkeye 10 schedule Monday at Red Oak before returning to Red Oak two nights later to open Class 3A regional play against the 11th-ranked Tigers (18-11).
Serving (aces) — Cr: Breanna Ross 12-12 (1), MaKenna Hudson 11-11, Megan Haley 8-8 (1), Taylor Buxton 8-9 (1), Samantha Dunphy 6-7, Peyton Rice 6-6. H: Haley Manz, 20-21 (3), Ashley Hall 10-10, Kara Weis 11-13 (2).
Attacks (kills) — Cr: Kelsey Fields 21-24 (12), Emma Hanson 24-26 (8), Haley 18-21 (5), Buxton 12-17 (3). H: Olivia Petersen 13, Anna Ahrenholtz 10, Hayley Hopkins 10.
Blocks (solo-assists) — Cr: Dunphy 1-0. H: Macie Leinen 5.
Setting (assists) — Cr: Ross 31, Haley 1, Buxton 1. H: Weis 36.
Digs — Cr: Hudson 12, Haley 12, Buxton 11, Ross 8, Rice 5. H: Weis 12, Manz 12, Hopkins 11, Hall 10.
Harlan swept the Creston JV in an abbreviated match, 25-20, 19-18.
“We could not seem to settle in tonight,” said Creston co-coach Naomi Sharp. “Maybe due to the tornado warning and being taken to the storm shelter between the freshman match and our match. Regardless, we looked out of sorts tonight. I am super proud of the way this team fought and came back in game two. We ran out of time to finish game two, or that game may have ended differently.”
Brianna Fields, Ryli Abildtrup and Dunphy each had two kills for the Panthers. Rylie Driskell set seven assists and Dunphy had two. The defense was balanced as Maddie Frey had seven digs, Karly Calvin and Driskell each contributed six and Dunphy provided five. Kaci Abildtrup had three digs while also attacking 8-9 with a kill.
Harlan downed the Creston freshmen 25-11, 14-12 in a match shortened by severe storm warnings when the teams and fans were sent to the school’s storm shelter.
Josie Travis was 6-6 serving with an ace for Creston. Morgan Driskell and Halle Evans each had two kills.
“We passed pretty well on serve receive, we just did not finish on the attack in set one,” said Creston coach Mike McCabe. “In set two e began finishing some of our attacks. Unfortunately, we got stopped by the weather.”