BELLEVUE - They’ve been among the top Tri-Rivers Conference programs for more than a half decade now, so it came as no surprise to anyone when the Springville volleyball team advanced all the way to the league’s conference tournament championship game at Bellevue-Marquette Saturday, Oct. 17.

      What did come as a bit of a shock was the class 1A fifth-ranked Orioles walking off the court with a bitter 18-25, 25-19, 13-15 loss to 12th-ranked Lisbon in that title tilt.

      “We went 5-1 at the conference tournament after dropping a three-set heartbreaker in the final,” said Springville volleyball coach Claude Howard. “After some redemption in pool play beating Maquoketa Valley and then getting a second chance at redemption beating Starmont in the semi-final of the championship bracket, we just couldn’t get out of our own way in the final and took a second-place finish.”

      The championship match was clearly a battle between two of the top programs in the conference with both teams swinging momentum back-and-forth during the match before the Lions made the clutch plays down the stretch in the third-set to escape with the narrow victory.

      Springville (24-4) once again was powered by a balanced offense led by Savannah Nealman who slammed down seven kills on just 15 attacks against the Lions while Kennady Breitfelder chipped in with six more kills. Molly Stamp and Lily Clark added five kills each for the Orioles.

      Nia Howard set the offense coming through with 26 assists while Grace Matus was back in action working the back row to the tune of 11 digs. Howard and Breitfelder added eight more each.

      Springville serving, like it usually is, was outstanding as the team drilled volleyballs over the net at a 98-percent clip with Nealman, Stamp and Breitfelder all coming through with aces.

      The Orioles opened their conference championship bracket play Saturday with a blowout 25-21, 25-14 triumph over Clinton Prince of Peace.

      Lauren Wilson and Nealman were a 1-2 combination no Irish defender could handle as each ripped six kills in the match while Breitfelder helped out with five more. Howard set 21 assists while Springville did not miss a single serve in the match with Penny Blackmore connecting for two of the team’s three total aces.

      In the semi-final round the Orioles exacted a little revenge on Starmont, claiming a 13-25, 25-21, 15-7 victory after the Stars had handed Springville a rare loss just two weeks earlier.

      Breitfelder, Wilson and Nealman were outstanding all match long and carried the Oriole offense with seven kills each while Howard set 28 assists. Matus made sure the back row was covered coming through with 23 digs while Breitfelder added 16 more.

      “We are looking for a little rest before the regional tournament Wednesday (Oct. 21) at home,” Howard said. “The kids played hard in Bellevue but couldn’t overcome some untimely errors. At 24-4 the kids have had a good regular season. We are proud of their accomplishments and look forward to another chance to get to the state tournament, as all attention turns to that goal.”

      Conference tournament play started for Springville with pool play action in Delhi Thursday, Oct. 15, where the Orioles opened with a 21-13, 21-17 victory over Edgewood-Colesburg.

      Wilson powered the offense with seven kills on a mere 10 attacks while Nealman added five more as Howard set 17 assists.

      After a thorough 21-6, 21-12 pounding of East Buchanan in the second match of the night, the Orioles set their sights on host Maquoketa Valley, who had handed Springville a three-set loss back on Sept. 29.

      This time, it would be the Orioles’ turn to complete the sweep claiming a 21-17, 21-14 victory over the talented Wildcats.

      Six different Springville girls hammered down kills in the match led by five from Stamp and Breitfelder while Clark and Howard chipped in with four each. Nealman and Wilson added even more depth to the Oriole offense coming through with three kills each.

      Matus covered the defense with 12 digs while Springville servers connected at a 97-percent clip with Breitfelder coming through with two of the team’s four total aces.

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