VINTON - Last year was a dream season for the Anamosa volleyball program. The Raiders claimed a division championship in their first run in the River Valley Conference and even cracked into the state rankings for the first time in a generation.

      The 2019 Raiders wanted nothing more than to make a statement that they are back and ready for more success this fall, too. And the Anamosa girls wanted to do it in their season-opener against Midland during the first of two matches at Vinton-Shellsburg Tuesday, Aug. 27.

      For a while a statement is exactly what they made, too.

      “We hardly made any errors in the first set against Midland and went on quite a few runs offensively that gave them some problems,” said Raider volleyball coach Caitlin McVay, as her team pounded out an impressive 25-7 triumph in the first game against the Eagles.

      “We got off to that great start in the first set, then just seemed to lose a bit of the edge that we had and got a little complacent and allowed Midland back into the match. We started making errors that we didn’t make in the first set and at one point we were even behind.”

      Anamosa (3-3) was still able to rally claiming a 25-22 triumph in the second game that closed out the match.

      “The girls figured it out,” McVay said. “This wasn’t the way we wanted to end this match, but you also have to give some of the credit to Midland, too. We didn’t make plays and they took advantage. We need to do a better job of maintaining focus throughout the match, no matter who we’re playing.”

      Nine different Raiders slammed down kills in the match led by five from Olivia Nebergall, who helped the team to an impressive 21 in the two-set match.

      Maggie McQuillen added four kills while Abby Fairbanks chipped in with three. Delaney Frater, Gabby Gadient and Grace Steffensmeier all added two kills for the Anamosa offense.

      Kylie Chapman set seven assists while Gadient and Kalli Minger tallied six more. Lexi Bright paced the Raider back row effort coming up with four digs while Anamosa served at an 84-percent clip with nine aces with Minger ripping four across the net in the match.

      The final match of the night saw the Raiders edged in a narrow 24-26, 23-25 decision against the host Vikings.

      “We had a 24-21 lead in the first set and just could not get the ball down to end the game,” McVay said. “That was a great opportunity that we let slip away, and then we started the second set extremely slow and dug ourselves a 13-1 hole.”

      But even with all the heartbreak, the Anamosa girls rallied to pull within a point of the Vikings before coming up just short at the bitter end.

      “Serving got us back into that second set,” McVay said. “I was very happy with the way the girls responded to the situation that we were in. We lost a very close first game and fell way behind in the second game and could have just given up, but instead everyone helped work our way back.”

      The Raiders took part at a challenging Cascade Invitational Saturday, Aug. 31, and in the first match of pool play against North Linn, rallied for a hard-fought 21-11, 14-21, 15-13 victory over the Lynx.

      “We started off strong in the first set but then some communication problems in the second set got us into some trouble,” McVay said. “We just got too quiet on the court but in the third set we were able to once again pull things together and close this one out. Olivia had a big kill to end it.”

      McQuillen paced the Raider offense with six kills in the pool play opener.

      The Raiders ran their record to 2-0 on the day by posting another three-set triumph, this time over another Tri-Rivers Conference club in Central City.

      “They were a scrappy team who gave us some fits in the first set,” said McVay, as Anamosa rallied after dropping the first set 20-22, to claim the win over the Wildcats by taking 21-15 and 15-10 victories in the final two games.

      “Our communication was much better after the first set and we made a line-up switch that seemed to provide a little energy for us as well.”

      Nebergall ripped five kills at Central City defenders to lead the Raider offense.

      The final match of pool play saw Anamosa handed an 11-21, 21-17, 5-15 setback against class 2A third-ranked Beckman.

      “The girls played an amazing second game and were able to beat one of the top teams in the state,” McVay said. “Lauren Martensen, Lexi Bright and Maggie McQuillen did a great job in the back row and Jaiden Neuhaus had three blocks against a team that had a lot of talented hitters. For a while there we looked like one of the top teams in the state, too, it just didn’t last.”

      The 2-1 pool play record allowed Anamosa to advance into bracket play against Waterloo East, who ended the Raiders’ day with a three-set setback.

      “We struggled in serve receive and just had a hard time making good passes to get into our offense,” McVay said. “The girls continued to try though. What made things even tougher was losing Delaney Frater to injury. We made to make some line-up adjustments on the fly and just couldn’t quite close this one out in the third set to keep us alive in the tournament.”

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