CEDAR RAPIDS - As a team filled with mainly freshmen and sophomores, there weren’t too many who gave the eighth-seeded and unranked Springville volleyball team much of a chance against top-seeded and No. 1 ranked Sidney in their class 1A state quarterfinal match at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids Wednesday, Nov. 13.
That didn’t matter to the Orioles one little bit.
“People may judge our team and say that somehow we didn’t belong here, but I wholeheartedly disagree,” said Springville volleyball coach Claude Howard, as his team was swept out of the tournament by the talented and senior-laden Cowgirls 15-25, 17-25, 11-25.
“This group of kids is special and I believe we more than earned our way into this tournament. Our inexperience against a faster team showed, but the experience will provide this team with a heart spark to work hard next season to be better.”
The match got off to a rough start almost immediately for the Orioles as Sidney raced to a 9-3 first set advantage before Howard was forced to call a timeout to try and slow the Cowgirls’ charge, and it worked too. For a little while.
Savannah Nealman and Nia Howard tallied kills for Springville but another big Sidney run pushed the Cowgirls’ lead to 18-9 before Howard called another timeout.
Down 24-10 late in the first set, the Orioles wouldn’t go down without one last fight.
Nealman scored two straight points, one with a kill and the other with a service ace before Morgan Nachazel added another kill. After a Sidney hitting error, Howard swatted a block back at the Cowgirls scoring another Springville point as the Orioles went on a 5-0 run to make it 24-15.
That’s where it ended however, as Sidney’s Kelsey Hobbie slammed down the set-ending kill.
“Sidney was by far the more experienced team and played faster than what the film showed,” Howard said. “Hobbie is a great middle hitter and as usual, Sidney plays bigger than their size on paper.”
Springville looked to get things going in the second set but again fell into an early hole as the Cowgirls exploded to an 8-0 lead before Lauren Wilson got the Orioles going with back-to-back kills to get Springville on the board.
Sidney extended their advantage to double-digits taking a 13-3 lead and kept it before Springville once again made a mad last-gasp run.
Trailing 19-6, the Cowgirls, who had played nearly flawless volleyball through much of the first two sets, started making mistakes, and the Orioles took advantage going on an impressive 11-4 run as Grace Matus, Molly Stamp, Lily Clark and Wilson all scored huge points as Springville pulled to within seven points at 24-17 before Hobbie once again closed out the set with an emphatic kill.
The third set, though ending with the Orioles’ most lopsided loss of the evening, actually got off to the most promising start as Stamp, Wilson and Nealman all delivered kills and Springville jumped out to a 3-0 lead, their first of the entire match.
But Sidney came storming back.
The Cowgirls went on a 9-2 spurt forcing Howard to call a timeout, and then the top-ranked team in the state about their work looking to end the match with a straight sets sweep.
“I’m so happy that we were able to get here and so happy that we got the chance to prove so many people wrong,” said Oriole sophomore Morgan Nachazel, who tied for the team lead in kills with Wilson and Nealman as the trio all slammed down six in the match.
“Honestly, I didn’t feel any nerves coming into this match. Nobody expected us to get here. The pressure was all on Sidney. I watched my sister (Mikayla) play here three times during her high school career, and I wanted to play just like those teams and just keep on fighting. I think we all did that. Sidney is a good team. The best we’ve seen this season, but hopefully we can make it back here again next season and get the chance to play them again. That’s our goal, to keep proving everyone wrong. We’ll use this as experience to make another run next year and hopefully make it even further.”
Wilson tallied 22 attacks on the offensive end and led the Oriole defense with two blocks.
“We’ll get back here next year and hopefully the year after that too,” Wilson said. “We’ll work hard in the off-season and do the things we need to do to get back here to state. I think we have a great chance with the girls we have coming back, too. We’re a very young team and we’ll only get better as long as we all keep working at it.”
Nealman also led the back row with nine digs while Kennady Breitfelder added seven more. Matus chipped in with six. Stamp and Clark helped out the defense with one block each.
Hobbie led the Cowgirls with 17 kills on just 25 attacks and was the lone hitter with double-digit kills.
“Watching the level some of the teams were at during the tournament gave me pause to consider what IU can create for this team in the future and I know I have the type of kids who will be hungry to learn and grow,” Howard said. “There is a ton of talent in this program, and for a group of kids who were below .50-0 a month ago to make it to the state tournament is a glimpse of the upward trajectory we are on.
“This was a great season for our team. I told the kids the only thing I am sad about is not being able to coach them anymore this season, because I loved ever day with them. I told them to keep their heads high after the pain of the loss fades because they will see this place again soon, and for a lot longer next time.”
Springville closes the 2019 campaign with a 20-17 overall record.
Not too bad for a bunch of freshmen and sophomores.