CORNING – Southwest Valley’s unsung heroes stepped up throughout the past two weeks, leading the way to a 3-0 victory over Mount Ayr (4-11) Tuesday night.
The Timberwolves (11-10) have been without Sam and Marah Larsen, two key contributors to Southwest Valley’s success this season. Sam, a senior, and Marah, a junior, played pivotal roles as middle and outside hitters.
Marah Larsen is second on the team in kills (81), tied for second in blocks (11) and aces (18). Sam Larsen is also tied for second with 18 aces and has 10 blocks for third on the team.
Losing the duo hasn’t been easy, but Southwest Valley has only lost one game without the duo, finding other options off the bench to step up.
Tuesday, freshmen Tierney Dalton and Ryanne Mullen and sophomore Maggie Haer were the young trio to give Southwest Valley head coach Lindsay Wetzel confidence in the latter part of the season.
“Tierney, she’s a freshman, to step into a varsity match and play middle all the way around, I think says a lot for her,” Wetzel said. “She doesn’t look nervous, she doesn’t act nervous. She doesn’t make those freshmen mistakes which is great. Ryanne, she was splitting time with Sam in the back row and Sam would play the front. Now, we just have her playing all the way around. ... Ryanne has done a great job over there too.”
Dalton had eight digs, three kills, four blocks and one ace on six successful serves. Mullen was 16-for-17 on serves and had five digs. Haer ended her night with three digs.
Wetzel said Haer, the Timberwolves libero, is an “underrated, unsung hero” on Southwest Valley’s team, always playing consistent.
“She’s always getting after stuff. She reads stuff very well,” Wetzel said. “She’s quiet, but she’s always there. I think we would be a heck of a lot worse without her, and we’re so much better with her. I give props to Maggie.”
Wetzel said Sam and Marah Larsen should be set to return Friday.
Raiderettes lose early lead
Mount Ayr jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead before Southwest Valley clawed its way back into the match and tied things up 6-6. The set went back-and-forth with each side capitalizing on kills and opposing attacks going long or into the net.
Southwest Valley went on a 4-0 run, before Mount Ayr cut its deficit to a tie at 19. That was the closest the Raiderettes got to gaining another lead. The Timberwolves went on a 6-0 run on Kyli Aldrich’s serve with a block from Dalton and assisted block from Dalton and Isabelle Inman. A return from Mount Ayr after the third hit on the volley caromed off the the rafters to end the set 25-19.
Mount Ayr started off hot in the second set, going up 3-1 after Rachel Sobotka placed a ball between two Timberwolves. Aldrich responded with a kill for Southwest Valley to switch the serve.
She finished with a team-high 12 kills and went 18-for-18 from serve with one ace.
“Kyli, she’s done a great job adjust because she was hitting opposite,” Wetzel said. “Then, to have to move to middle this late in the season, that’s kind of tough because middles are running all the time, they’re double blocking everywhere. A lot of times, you spin a lot of circles, so she’s done a great job of adjusting to that middle roll for us and stepped up her blocking, getting a lot of touches.”
On Aldrich’s serve, Southwest Valley went on a 7-0 to gain an 8-3 advantage and force a Mount Ayr timeout.
The Raiderettes scored one point out of the break before a 5-0 run extended Southwest Valley’s lead to 13-4. Returns landing out of bounds and attacks into the net continued to plague Mount Ayr, leading Southwest Valley to a quick 25-10 victory in the second set.
In the final set, Southwest Valley jumped out quickly, taking an 8-3 lead with Mount Ayr struggling to find ways to get on the board. Offensively, the Raiderettes continued to attack far off the net, sending balls into the net and back to their side or sending them out the back.
Taking an 11-5 lead, Mount Ayr was forced to call its second timeout of the match. The Raiderettes responded with Adalyn Reynolds and Tegan Streit scoring kills. Mount Ayr crawled back into the third set, trailing 12-10 after scoring four answered points and forcing Wetzel to call her first timeout.
After regrouping, the Timberwolves took over. Southwest Valley went on a 3-0 run before Mount Ayr split points. Leading 17-12, Ryanne Mullen went up to serve after another long Mount Ayr attack.
Mullen and the Timberwolves went on a 7-0 run before finishing the game up 25-14.
Looking at the two-week success without Marah and Sam Larsen, Wetzel said she’s happy to have found some depth in the bench, boosting the outlook late in the year.
“It gives a lot of confidence because when those two are back and if things aren’t going well, I know I have others who can step up to the challenge and be shoved in a varsity match and not have those nerves and jitters and play well,” Wetzel said.
The win solidifies Southwest Valley in third place in the Pride of Iowa, going 2-1 in conference play. Mount Ayr is now eighth in the conference with an 0-3 record.
UP NEXT – Southwest Valley prepares for the Pride of Iowa tournament Monday at 6 p.m. Mount Ayr faces East Mills Thursday at home, starting at 7 p.m.
Southwest Valley 3, Mount Ayr 0
Serving (aces) — Kyli Aldrich 18-18 (1), Tonna Damewood 14-14 (1), Norah Lund 10-10 (1), Ryanne Mullen 16-17 (0), Tierney Dalton 6-9 (1), Isabelle Inman 4-4 (1).
Attacks (kills) — Kyli Aldrich 20-24 (12), Tonna Damewood 11-14 (2), Norah Lund 17-20 (4), Ryanne Mullen 2-2 (0), Tierney Dalton 11-11 (3), Isabelle Inman 7-7 (3).
Blocks — Tierney Dalton 4, Isabelle Inman 2, Norah Lund 1.
Setting (assists) —Isabelle Inman 19, Tierney Dalton 1.
Digs — Tierney Dalton 8, Norah Lund 7, Ryanne Mullen 5, Maggie Haer 3, Isabelle Inman 2, Tonna Damewood 1.