GRUNDY CENTER - Colo-NESCO came to play, but once Class 1A No. 1 Grundy Center gets rolling, not many teams can stop it.
Trailing 9-8 in the opening set, the Spartans got three straight points from sophomore Noel Saak, grabbed the lead and never looked back in a three-game sweep of the Royals here Tuesday night.
Grundy Center disposed of Colo-NESCO 25-16, 25-6, 25-16 in the Class 1A Region 4 quarterfinals, ending the Royals' season at 14-12.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
Colo-NESCO’s Sam Riese (43) takes on the triple block applied by Grundy Center’s Stephanie Faust (9), Sam Meyers (3) and Riley Ackerman (12) during Tuesday’s Class 1A regional volleyball quarterfinal at Grundy Center High School. The top-ranked Spartans prevailed in three sets.
"We may have had a few nerves early and may have been pushing too hard, but we regrouped and started taking better care of the ball," Grundy Center coach Darwin Sents said. "We also served better."
The next opponent in the Spartans' path to the state tournament is Lynnville-Sully, which eliminated BGM in three games Tuesday night. The Hawks are 14-11 on the season and have not yet dropped a game in regional play.
Against the Royals, Grundy Center got a balanced effort. It was not just seniors Sam Meyers and Heather Hook or sophomore Riley Sents doing damage. Saak finished with four kills, three blocks and three aces, senior Riley Ackerman had five kills and three aces and Peyton Ralston contributed nine digs.
"We had much better balance tonight," Coach Sents said. "I was happy with the effort and I am happy with the performance."
Even though they were facing the top-ranked team in the state, Colo-NESCO came ready. But it was their serve receive and lack of concentration that ultimately led to the loss, according to Colo-NESCO coach Erin Murphy.
"We played hard and are capable of playing like that" she said. "We just can't seem to continue the intensity after we drop the first game. I have been calling it game two blues all season."
The Spartans finished with 16 aces in the match but allowed the Royals to hang around in the opening set because of service errors. Grundy Center had 10 missed serves in the match and most of those came in the first game.
It was nip and tuck to start the match as the Royals were staying with the Spartans point-for-point. Caitlyn Riese came through with a couple of kills to give the Royals an early advantage.
Saak had back-to-back kills and then an ace to push the Spartans ahead and then back-to-back kills by Ackerman made it 14-10. Meyers, who finished with 11 kills in the match, blasted consecutive kills a few points later to make it 17-12. Two more kills by Saak and an ace by Meyers eventually ended the frame for the Spartans.
The second game started competitive as each team split the first six points. But Grundy Center used three big runs to put the frame away.
"We needed all six of the girls playing well at the same time tonight," Murphy said. "We just lost our focus that second game."
The first spurt covered seven straight points on Riley Sents' serve and included two aces by the sophomore libero. Colo-NESCO scored consecutive points to make it 10-5, but a 9-0 run gave the Spartans a commanding lead. The run included a block and a kill by Ackerman, two aces by Hook and back-to-back kills by Meyers.
The final spurt of the game saw Grundy Center score the final six points. Ackerman had two more aces and Stephanie Faust buried consecutive kills.
"The serving got better for us, especially in the second game," Coach Sents said. "I also knew that we would be in pretty good shape if we hit the ball hard. That was the case tonight."
Like the opener, the Royals hung tough early in the final game. They scored the first two points of the frame following a block by Riese and a net violation, and then remained in the set a few points later after Madison Farren made it 9-7 with a kill.
Four straight points by the Spartans though pushed the lead to six and then another 4-0 spurt grew the margin to eight. The two Spartan runs included two kills by freshman Katie Lindeman and a Ralston ace.
Grundy Center maintained its advantage the rest of the way, never leading by less than eight. Faust came through with a couple more kills and a big blast from Meyers closed out the sweep.
"We struggled with their serving and with their volleyball nets in the ceiling," Murphy said. "We have played in lower ceilings before, but we like to pass high. It affected the way we played."
Hook finished with 26 assists, four blocks and three aces, while Riley Sents recorded three aces and 25 digs. Faust and Lindeman had six and five kills, respectively. The Spartans were 73-of-83 in serving, led by Riley Sents' 13-of-14 performance.
The Spartans improved to 31-6 following the win. Lynnville-Sully is next up for the top-ranked team in the state. Grundy Center and the Hawks will face off at 7 p.m. Friday at Meskwaki Settlement School.
But it is more about what Grundy Center does rather than who it plays at this point.
"We look for tendencies, but we'll get to know them the next couple of days," coach Sents said. "We just need to do what we do and take it to them."
The Spartans dropped down to Class 1A this season after reaching the state semifinals in Class 2A the past two years. The two teams on the other side of the regional bracket are Guthrie Center and Glidden-Ralston. ... Hook and Meyers will both play Division I volleyball next season but on different teams in the same conference. Hook will set for Northern Iowa, while Meyers will be a hitter for Drake. ... Meyers finished in the top 10 in the state in kills this year, while Riley Sents has more digs than any other player with more than 600. ... Lynnville-Sully defeated BGM 25-21, 25-23, 25-21 on the road Tuesday. Cassie Cullen has more than 80 aces on the season for the Hawks.