LE MARS, Iowa | Considering the fact that Hinton and Gehlen Catholic were battling it out for second place in the final War Eagle Conference standings, there was the possibility of a five-game volleyball match.
Jumping off to solid leads in the each of the final two games of Thursday night’s match, 10th-ranked Hinton is headed to next week’s Class 2A regional tournament on a positive note. Coach Mary Jo Coleman’s Blackhawks posted their sixth consecutive victory, rallying for an entertaining 21-25, 25-23, 25-21, 23-25, 15-9 win over 1A third-ranked Gehlen Catholic at Marvin Langel Memorial Gym.
“We were really excited for this and I think this is a really great way for us to end our season,” said Coleman, whose team heads into the regional with wins in eight of its final nine matches. “We knew Gehlen was going to be a really tough, tough place to play and we knew we’d have to fight every single point to the end. Gehlen put up a tough fight against us too.”
Middle blocker Madison Walding recorded 16 kills for Hinton (21-10, 10-1 WEC) while outside hitter Allyssa Traver added 13. As the match went on, veteran setter Hallie Reuter (49 kills), a four-year starter, turned to a few others who provided solid kills as well against the Jays.
Middle hitter Bryce Klein, outside hitter El’Lee Kroll and right side Aspen Coffee also recorded success hitting around Gehlen blocks. Reuter, Hinton’s career assist leader, expressed her appreciation for hitters whose efforts paved the way.
“It’s really special to me because I can go to any one of my hitters with confidence they’re going to put the ball away,” said Reuter. “It’s not just one hitter that I go to. I can go to every single one of them.
“It was really cool to see Maddie Walding, our middle, get on fire tonight. She got the entire team pumped up. Then everyone started hitting well. It was really good to see (Walding) flourish like she did.”
Libero Kailey Stoup had 34 digs for Hinton, which didn’t record its first lead of the night until late in Game 2 when Klein’s kill was good for a 19-18 lead. Gehlen’s Kayla Mayer and Katelyn Langel combined for a block on Coffee for a 23-21 lead, but Walding’s kill launched a four-point run that evened the match at one win apiece.
Consecutive kills from Coffee and Walding provided a 12-9 Game 3 lead for the Blackhawks, which bolted to an 8-1 Game 4 advantage.
Gehlen Catholic (24-6, 9-2 WEC) stormed back to take a 23-21 lead on two straight kills from Katie Peters (25 kills, 19 digs). Coach Mike Meyer’s Jays then snapped a 23-all time on a Hinton attack error while Mayer’s kill forced the match into five games.
However, Hinton scored the first five points of Game 5. Three times, Gehlen pulled within two points, but could come no closer, suffering its second five-game loss of the week dating back to Tuesday night’s thriller at home against 2A No. 7 Unity Christian, which incidentally, capped off an 11-0 conference slate with a pair of 3-0 sweeps at Hartley Thursday night over South O’Brien and Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn.
“It’s been draining for us,” said Meyer. “Our kids, we were always playing from behind tonight, except for Game 1. It just takes it out of you. I’m proud of our kids, though, that we made games out of those and we came back to push it to five.
“It does get to you emotionally and physically. I thought we ran out of gas a little bit tonight. You can kind of tell, instead of moving quicker, you stand and reach a little bit. This group’s improving. We know we can get better.”
Setters Anna Britt and Sydney Livermore each recorded 25 kills for the Jays. Libero Chloe Bunkers had 26 digs.
Prior to Hinton’s second win over Gehlen Catholic this season, Coffee recorded 11 kills in a 25-15, 25-15, 25-13 win over West Sioux. Reuter dished 25 assists, Stoulp supplied eight digs and two ace serves while Kroll had two block assists.
Gehlen Catholic started the triangular with a 25-12, 25-18, 25-17 win over West Sioux. Peters and Langel provided eight and seven kills, respectively while Britt had 12 assists, three more than Livermore.
Bunkers topped the Jays’ defense against West Sioux wit 11 digs while Peters provided eight digs, three solo blocks and one block assist.