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Class 3A No. 4 Unity Christian uses crucial first set to sweep 1A No. 8 Gehlen Catholic
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PREP VOLLEYBALL

Class 3A No. 4 Unity Christian uses crucial first set to sweep 1A No. 8 Gehlen Catholic

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ORANGE CITY, Iowa — The first set is always crucial. Every team wants that 1-0 lead because of the obvious early edge.

Tuesday’s first set between Unity Christian and Gehlen Catholic was match-defying for both teams.

Unity started with the early lead and led until late in the first set, when Gehlen almost completed its comeback, getting to set point.

But the Jays couldn’t finish off the set, not once but twice. The Knights, who got a key performance from sophomore Tyra Schuiteman late in the first set, put together a comeback of their own and forced extra points.

The Knights took all of the air out of the Jays, staving off set point twice to claim a 30-28 first set win.

The Class 3A No. 4-ranked Knights (6-2) rode the wave from that first set the rest of the way for the 30-28, 25-18, 25-17.

“That’s huge both ways. That’s huge for us and it’s a letdown for the team that doesn’t get the win there,” Unity coach Patty Timmermans said. “We stressed at the timeout between (the first and second set) that we had to jump on them right away, not let them build momentum.

“There were times in the first set that (Gehlen) had too many runs. Our focus in the second and third sets was to minimize their runs. I thought we did much better at that in the final two sets.”

Gehlen Catholic coach Mike Meyer said the talent is there for the Jays, but they haven’t been getting off to good starts this season.

Gehlen fell behind early in both the second and third sets, too.

“I don’t know if I have to fiddle with our lineup but we’ve had this all year,” Meyer said. “It bothered me that we had chances and we didn’t (finish it). That might have changed everything a little bit.

“We just have to be mentally tougher than that.”

Like Unity, Gehlen had a few players out because of COVID-19, one of them being libero Alyssa Kolbeck.

Meyer hasn’t had his full team together yet this season. He’s hoping the 5-5 Jays, who are No. 8 in Class 1A, have everyone back for their tournament on Sunday.

“Alyssa is good and she definitely would’ve helped with the passing tonight,” Meyer said. “We’ve competed with people. When you get the chances, you have to play well enough to take advantage of it.

“I am a little frustrated because we are a better team than what we are showing.”

Cadence Gobel led the Jays with 14 digs, Tiffany Woerdehoff, who is playing libero currently, had 12 and Jasmine Lubben had 11.

Gobel added 18 assists and Larissa Sitzmann and Lauren Heying each had six kills.

Unity had a 5-0 lead to start the first set but the Jays countered with a 4-0 run. Unity then went on a 6-0 run for an 11-4 advantage and was up 16-11 when the Jays started to come back.

The Jays went on a big run to get to 24 but Schuiteman, who finished with nine kills, got a couple of kills to force extra points.

Schuiteman had four kills and a block during the crucial run for the 30-28 win.

“She rose up and accepted the challenge there and she was going to do anything she could to stop them at the net,” Timmermans said. “I thought she really played well at the end and took charge out there. Showed some initiative and leadership.”

Schuiteman is seeing more time because Janie Schoonhoven, Josie Byl and Lucy Zylstra are all quarantining because of COVID-19. Janie Schoonhoven is an all-around player and top-attacker for Knights. Byl is a key back row player and Zylstra is a right side hitter.

Gracie Schoonhoven led the Knights with 15 kills, Jenna Bouma had seven kills and Dacey Driesen finished with six kills.

Emma Byker had 37 assists. 

Libero Ana Sandbulte led the team with 20 digs. Cassedy Dekkers and Dia Wassenaar, who are both seeing time with Janie Schoonhoven and Byl out, each had 12 digs.

“This is deepening our team out of necessity,” Timmermans said. “Dacey, we have seen her do that before, but it’s hard when you are a sub and only come in certain rotations. This way they can get in a rhythm and get comfortable. It’s huge and great for them to get out there and get swings and touches and it is just making us stronger all together.”

The second set was tied at 8-8 when Dacey Driesen got back-to-back kills and that started a 6-1 run for the Knights. Driesen had three kills during the run to give Unity a 14-9 lead.

Unlike the first set, Gehlen didn’t have an answer this time around and the Knights didn’t let the Jays back into the set as Unity took a 2-0 lead with a 25-18 win.

Unity started the third set with a 4-0 lead and the Knights never let the Jays within three points. Unity finished the sweep with a 25-17 set win.

The 6-2 start for Unity now includes four wins over ranked opponents with three of those coming in Saturday’s Sioux County tournament.

“I will take it,” Timmermans said with a laugh. “Saturday was the biggest test. Tonight we just had to worry about one team. I go back to the first set, that’s a classic Gehlen-Unity first set there.

“We frustrated them a lot after that.”

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