TAMA - The right side turned into uncharted territory for the South Tama volleyball team. Get the ball to the middle hitters, head coach Michelle Bradley said, and they would do the rest.
The fast-starting Trojans had to rally from a 2-1 deficit to defeat an all-too-familiar foe in Monday's Class 3A Region 7 quarterfinal, needing five sets to turn away South Hardin in the postseason opener for both teams, 25-16, 25-27, 17-25, 25-12, 15-9.
It was the second five-setter in as many matches this season for the NICL West Division clubs, and the 3-2 outcome went STC's way both times.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
South Tama’s Shelby Bradley (1) celebrates her service ace with teammates during the fifth and deciding set of Monday’s Class 3A regional quarterfinal victory over South Hardin.
The driving force in this elimination match proved to be STC's middle hitters, as Jade Rohach's 16 kills and Samantha Holtz's 10 kills got the ball away from South Hardin's best blocking tandem.
Paige Van Dyk added a season-high 15 kills on the outside as the Trojans (15-13) advanced to the regional semifinals. Tenth-ranked Mount Vernon (25-10) dispatched East Marshall in three sets to earn a trip to Tama on Thursday night. No. 8-ranked West Liberty (27-9) will face CMB (7-13) in Williamsburg on the other half of the bracket.
"It was up to the girls, they had to find it and they had to do it," Bradley said. "They have to come together as a team. I didn't know what else to do differently, they just had to do it."
South Tama scored the first eight points of the night, spurred by three consecutive aces by Holtz. South Hardin (13-19) tried to fight back but never mounted much of a comeback in surrendering the first set.
A 6-0 run got the host Trojans out to a 9-1 lead in the second set, but too many STC swinging errors cost them a chance at a 2-0 advantage. The Tigers denied South Tama on set point with a kill by Haley Lawrence, and Kayla Prosser's kill tied it at 24-all. A quick set to Lawrence and an outside set to Ellen Swartz gave South Hardin the second set.
The Tigers took the momentum and charged out to an 11-2 lead to open the third set, and South Tama's offense lost its way. Rohach, the team's kills leader and an all-NICL West performer, had only one kill in the third set and on limited chances.
"I'm not usually one who says, 'Set it here,' or 'don't set it here,' but I said 'set the middles,'" Coach Bradley said. "We needed to stay away from the right side but for some reason we kept wanting to set this side. Our middles just came alive."
Rohach had five kills in the fourth set, three of them during South Tama's 7-0 run to finish the game. Van Dyk added two kills during that surge, including a straight-down turnaround of a South Hardin dig that cleared the net. Trisha Walz had an ace as well to help force the deciding fifth game.
STC's serving had the Tigers off-balance in the fifth set, and the Trojans dictated play from there. Van Dyk and Emily Martin both had aces to help South Tama take a 10-7 lead, and Holtz later finished off the match with back-to-back aces.
South Tama totaled 17 aces on the night against South Hardin's senior-free roster.
"That's having young kids on the serve-receive," said Tigers head coach Karla Bronzynski. "They made some errors we knew we shouldn't have. We had to execute and we didn't follow through."
The Tigers made only six service errors - STC had 12 - with Prosser collecting four of their seven aces on 19-of-20 serving. Morgan Ridout rotated in to go 15-for-15 with an ace.
Prosser also led South Hardin with 12 kills while Swartz added 10, Lawrence seven and Mikayla Fisher six.
Holtz and Walz led South Tama with 12 digs apiece, and Shelby Bradley had 11. Bradley totaled 16 assists and Madison Baack had 13, while Holtz had a team-high five aces. Rohach and Walz both totaled three blocks and Waltz had two more.
The Trojans improved to 3-0 this season in five-set matches, while South Hardin's 3-2 mark included two losses to STC.
Mount Vernon 3, East Marshall 0
MOUNT VERNON - Tenth-ranked Mount Vernon swept East Marshall in Monday's Class 3A Region 7 quarterfinal, winning 25-7, 25-12, 25-8.
The Mustangs (25-10) got a match-high eight kills from Hannah Whitley, seven from Chelsey Schirm and five apiece for Emma Cochrane and Alli Platte. Mount Vernon finished the night 54-for-56 serving with 14 aces and also posted a .520 kill efficiency.
East Marshall (5-18) was led by Claire Johnson and Katie Roseland with four kills apiece. Kelsea Anderson added three kills. Johnson's three blocks also led the way for the Mustangs.
Madisen Hinegardner had a team-high eight digs. Ashley Allen had six digs, while Haley Long had six assists and went 5-for-5 serving with one ace.