SIOUX CITY | East's Kirstin Sykes attacked at will and scored a match-high 15 kills as she led her team to a 25-11, 25-13, 25-9 win over West in a Class 5A Region 1 first-round volleyball match played on the Black Raiders' home court Wednesday.
One of two returning starters from last season along with Emma Harmelink, Sykes helped East register its third win of the season over the Wolverines to improve to 16-27. The Black Raiders will face North in a semifinal match Tuesday.
The Black Raiders had 18 ace serves in the match, eight by freshman Chloe Kramer and six more from Harmelink.
East got off to a fast start to the match, vaulting to a 12-2 lead thanks to three early kills by Harmelink. West battled back from an early 6-2 deficit in the second game to tie things at 6-6 but another kill and three consecutive aces from Harmelink turned the momentum back in the Black Raiders' favor.
Sykes had six of her kills in the middle set to help secure the win.
Up 2-0 in the match, Kramer served East to an 11-0 lead in the third set, with six of her aces coming during the run.
The win was the third for East since Kati Steffen took over as the Black Raiders' head coach. Steffen replaced Lisa Rembe following East's regular-season finale win over West last Monday and directed the youthful team to a third-place finish in the recent Missouri River Conference tournament Monday.
"She has stepped into a tough position and done a good job," said Sykes, "I think we all respect what she is doing and I think we are getting along well."
Sykes, one of three juniors along with Harmelink and Allyson Smith on the East team, has assumed some of the leadership role on a team with six freshmen.
"I try to keep the younger players motivated and excited to play," said Sykes. "We have been through a tough season this year and we all need to be ready to play."
"She has been great at keeping everyone positive and up on our team," said Steffen. "She doesn't let anyone get down on themselves.
"We have been working on improving our receiving and passing of serves. I think we continue to show improvement every time we play."
Libero Josie Blake had 11 digs and Riley Donahue added seven digs while setter Kramer had 30 assists.
Junior Jada DeRocher had four kills to pace West (4-30) which also will lose no players to graduation.
The upcoming regional semifinal with North will be the sixth between the well-acquainted Sioux City foes. The Stars won the five-set MRAC regular season match 3-2 on Sept. 26 and the teams' have swept the other four matches, all which were best-of-three.