STATE CENTER - It took West Marshall a few games to get going Wednesday night. But when the Trojans hit their stride, there wasn't much Gladbrook-Reinbeck could do.
An injury to one of the Rebels' most experienced players may have played a role as well.
West Marshall and Gladbrook-Reinbeck split the first two games of their Class 2A Region 6 battle but the Rebels struggled to recover when Ellie Stoakes went down with an injury in Game 3.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
West Marshall senior Kaitlyn Nichols, center, shoots the ball past Gladbrook-Reinbeck defenders Ellie Stoakes, left, and Brooke Boyle during Class 2A Region 6 opening-round volleyball action in State Center on Wednesday. The Trojans eliminated the Rebels in four games.
As a result, West Marshall advanced with a 25-20, 22-25, 25-9, 25-7 victory at home and moved on to the second round where the Trojans will take on undefeated and Class 2A No. 1 Dike-New Hartford.
"We were tentative at times tonight, and when we lost that second game, I asked our seniors if they were ready to be done," West Marshall coach Mike Eckhardt said. "They took it upon themselves in the final two games to serve tougher and we began to pull away."
Gladbrook-Reinbeck coach Jay Arends thought his young team came out flat and maybe even was a little nervous, and then the air came out of the Rebels' momentum when Stoakes went down.
"We came out flat but got going a bit in game two," Arends said. "We were a little nervous and the injury threw us off. It forced us to play different rotations, and the kids had a hard time adjusting to it."
The opening game was fairly competitive until West Marshall began to pull away with three straight points, including two kills from McKenna Hotopp, to go up 12-8. The Trojans maintained at least a three-point advantage the rest of the way and Whitney Benson collected the final kill that gave West Marshall an early one game to none lead. Benson and Hotopp led the Trojans with 15 and 12 kills, respectively.
Playing through several ties early in the second game, the Rebels would not go down without a fight. Strong play from Stoakes and Hayley Weber put Gladbrook-Reinbeck up 10-6 and the lead stayed around five points because the Rebels continued to find small holes in the Trojans' defense.
West Marshall battled back to close within one point on three separate occasions and even tied it multiple times as well. But the Rebels (14-19) stole the game from the home team following a tap and a kill from Weber and another blast from Brooke Boyle. Weber finished with seven kills and six digs, while Boyle added five kills in the loss.
"Gladbrook-Reinbeck is a young team, and I expect them to be good in a few years," Eckhardt said.
Coming into the match, Eckhardt had hoped to take advantage of the Rebels' youth by grabbing early leads. The Trojans were able to do that in the final two games.
Game three started with West Marshall jumping out to a 6-1 advantage and back-to-back aces by Kaitlyn Nichols made it 11-5. The lead stayed at six points until West Marshall pulled even further ahead with an 11-0 run to end the frame.
During that stretch of 11 straight points for the Trojans, Benson collected three kills, Nichols contributed two kills and Sydney Beals served up back-to-back aces. Stoakes also went down during that stretch. She stayed in for a few points before heading to the bench and never played in Game 4.
Nichols finished with 11 kills and three aces on the night, while Beals was 24-of-25 in serving with five aces.
"We were hoping to get a big lead at some point and see how their young kids handled being down," Eckhardt said. "Sometimes younger kids get down on themselves when things aren't going well and that is kind of what happened. The injury they suffered didn't help them either I am sure."
The Rebels hung in there early on in the final game, but the Trojans (22-13) gained complete control with a 7-0 spurt that included two aces from Beals. The lead ballooned to 16-4 following another kill from Benson, and the Trojans used another 6-0 run to go up 22-6. Benson capped off the win with an ace.
"West Marshall is too fundamentally sound to come back on when you get down like that," Arends said. "It was hard to battle back. It just wasn't our night tonight."
Alarie Craven had a team-high 36 assists for the Trojans, while Kelsiann Halbloom finished with nine digs and a handful of kills. Hotopp also had 10 digs in the win for West Marshall, who will next face top-ranked Dike-New Hartford on the road at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
"It's a tough gym, and not the best place to play because Dike's ceiling is so low," Eckhardt said. "There is no way for us to simulate that, but I have confidence in my seniors. They won't be intimated by Dike as most teams usually are. We can't make errors, must stay aggressive and have to serve tough. We have to make them earn their points. If they earn their points, then they earn their points and we go back to playing defense."
The Rebels started just two seniors in Taylor Flamme and libero Erin Wentzien. The rest of the starting lineup consisted of two juniors, two sophomores and one freshman. ... Britney Keller led the Rebels with 12 kills, while Wentzien had a team-high 19 digs and three aces. Jenny Schildroth had 28 assists and eight digs and Flamme finished with 10 digs.
Hudson 3, North Tama 2
HUDSON - Jumping in front early, the North Tama volleyball team came up on the short end of a five-setter falling to Hudson 16-25, 25-15, 25-23, 22-25, 15-7 in Class 2A first round regional action Wednesday.
Allie Zobel led the Redhawks (15-15) with 24 kills on the night, matching the seventh-best single game performance in 2A this year. She also led with 16 digs.
Shannon Stuart added eight kills, 14 digs and four aces. Sara Howard added four kills and two solo blocks, while Aryn Isenhower tallied 35 assists and 10 digs.
Josie Youel added eight kills and a pair of solo blocks, while Emma Knoop was a perfect 21-of-21 from the service line with five aces.
Hudson (12-18) advances to the quarterfinals where it will face BCLUW (9-19) Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Conrad.