VAN HORNE - Struggling through their class 1A regional semi-final match just two days earlier, Springville volleyball coach Claude Howard called the Orioles’ match against Clinton Prince of Peace a wake-up call leading into their pressure-filled regional final Wednesday, Oct. 28, against Belle Plaine in Van Horne.
The Springville girls got the message, loud and clear.
“The Prince of Peace match was a bit of a wake-up call for our squad and we prepared hard for Belle Plaine,” said Howard, as his team swept past the Plainsmen cruising to a 25-21, 25-14, 25-16 rout in front of a huge crowd in the spacious Benton Community gymnasium and advanced back to the 1A state tournament for the second year in a row, and sixth time in the last eight seasons.
“Film review, study and game-planning really gave us an advantage in the final. Our kids really paid attention to the film and executed the game plan.”
The Plainsmen simply could not get into an offensive rhythm all match long, and it was that Oriole game plan that was the cause of it, not allowing Belle Plaine’s top-2 hitters (Alyssa Tegeler and Nicholaa Phillippe) to get high quality swings at the volleyball.
“We came in thinking this was going to be a tough game,” said Oriole junior libero Grace Matus. “When you get to this level, with a chance to go to state on the line, they’re all tough, but we had a great game plan and we stuck to it all night long. We were pretty much able to control their top-2 hitters and that was the difference in the match. Belle Plaine is a good team, and for us to be able to win this in straight sets is pretty impressive.”
The first set wound up being the tightest of the night with Belle Plaine taking a 9-8 lead before Lauren Wilson, who led off the match with an emphatic kill, added another to even the score at 9-9.
As it turned out, it would be the last Belle Plaine lead in the set as Lily Clark followed with a block a Plainsmen shot that gave the Orioles (27-4) a 10-9 lead.
Keeping it however, wouldn’t be easy.
“We knew we were going to have to play well to beat a team as good as Belle Plaine,” said Springville’s Kennady Breitfelder, who played a huge role in the triumph. “I was so excited coming into this match, I couldn’t even eat lunch. But once we all got out onto the floor, everything just began to click. We knew right away it was going to be a good night.”
After the Plainsmen evened the score at 12-12 in the opening set, a Savannah Nealman kill gave the Orioles a 13-12 advantage they would not lose the rest of the way.
Nealman and Breitfelder went on a point-scoring barrage that no Plainsmen defender could slow down as the pair tallied seven straight Springville points between them and the Orioles were in complete control leading 23-16.
But once again, the Belle Plaine made a run going on a 5-1 burst closing to with on three points at 24-21 before Wilson ended the opening set with a huge kill that brought Oriole fans and students to their feet.
“We started out strong and gradually settled into the game and really found our offense groove,” Howard said. “We had three kids swing in double-digits with our two outside hitters and right side.”
The second set saw Belle Plaine score a kill taking a quick 1-0 lead.
Amazingly, it would be their last one of the entire night.
Wilson slammed down back-to-back kills to give Springville a 4-2 lead and the Orioles stretched it to 11-5 before the Plainsmen made a run using a 6-0 spurt to knot the score at 11-11.
With the Belle Plaine side of the gym now making noise, Springville quickly silenced them when Breitfelder delivered four points during a 6-1 run that once again took control of the set.
“I think our coaches make sure we’re all ready for pressure game like this with the intense practices we have, and we all just responded when Belle Plaine made that run,” Breitfelder said. “I am so proud of my team and am just so happy to be a part of this. Going back to state is a dream come true.”
After the score was tied at 11-11, the Orioles closed the set on a huge 14-3 spurt as Wilson and Nealman also delivered huge kills before a pair of errors on the Belle Plaine side of the net ended the second set.
In the third and final set, Springville never allowed the Plainsmen to take a lead as Wilson once again opened things with a kill before Nealman added another.
After a flurry of Belle Plaine mistakes, the Orioles led 7-4 though the Plainsmen were able to hang around early. But every time Springville needed a big point, they always seemed to be able to get it.
“We’ve been through this kind of pressure before, and I think those experiences helped get us through this match with Belle Plaine,” Matus said. “We didn’t feel the pressure, we just kept making plays.”
Leading 11-9, Springville went on a run that would secure the coveted state berth.
Nealman and Wilson fueled a huge Oriole 12-2 run with numerous kills before Morgan Nachazel closed out the triumph with the final two to send Springville back to the state volleyball tournament.
“It’s always special when we make it to state,” Matus said. “We’ve done this quite a bit the last few years, but it never gets old.
“Now our goal is to go there and find a way to win the whole thing.”
Wilson led the Oriole offense in the regional final hammering down 14 kills on 28 attacks while Breitfelder and Nealman added 10 more each for an offense that tallied 44 kills in the match.
Nia Howard set 34 assists while Matus worked the back row to perfection coming up with 19 digs. Howard added 10 more while Ashlynne Zaruba chipped in with nine digs.
Springville serving was outstanding as well as the team ripped volleyballs across the net at a 99-percent clip (68-of-69) led by Nealman (16-of-16) and Breitfelder (14-of-14) who were a combined 30-for-30 with six aces.
The Orioles opened the class 1A state tournament Tuesday, Nov. 3 at the Alliant Energy PowerHouse (formerly the U.S. Cellular Center) as the fifth-seed and faced fourth-seeded and fourth-ranked Gladbrook-Reinbeck (32-2) in the quarter-final round.
A win over the Rebels would advance Springville to the semi-final round Wednesday, Nov. 4, at 8 p.m. where they would face the winner of the top-ranked and top-seeded Janesville (28-4) vs. eighth-seeded Council Bluffs-St. Albert (14-13) match.
The class 1A state championship match is slated for Thursday, Nov. 5, at 8 p.m.
Competing in the bottom half of the class 1A state bracket will be second-seeded Wapsie Valley (20-7) vs. seventh-seeded Burlington-Notre Dame (17-5) while third-seeded LeMars Gehlen Catholic (24-5) battles sixth-seeded New London (22-7).