CONRAD - Grundy Center has gone through its share of early growing pains this season.
Though so far, coach Darwin Sents hasn't had much reason to intervene during the Spartans' development.
Brushing off some adversity once again, Class 2A No. 8 Grundy Center swept past BCLUW, 25-18, 25-22, 25-17, in an NICL West Division opener to keep its perfect record intact.
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
Grundy Center junior Stephanie Faust passes the ball in the Spartans’ NICL West Division opener against BCLUW on Tuesday in Conrad. The Spartans won in three sets.
The Spartans (5-0, 1-0) found themselves trailing through much of the first game, but Sents let his squad work its way through the issue instead of using a timeout.
"I felt we could do it. I thought, 'Okay, we have to work through this and get this going," said Sents. "The kids need to figure this out and grow a little bit - and they did."
Kennedy Buss and Katie Lindeman paced the Spartans with 10 kills apiece, while Stephanie Faust added nine kills and 16 digs. Noel Saak tallied eight kills and Riley Sents had 33 digs. Peyton Ralston and Alyssa Mathews contributed 19 and 18 assists, respectively, in the sweep.
BCLUW opened with a 4-1 lead and held an 11-7 advantage before a Faust kill and a pair of Comet errors gave the Spartans their first lead at 15-14. Grundy Center never relinquished control and finished the opening set on a 13-4 run with back-to-back winners from Lindeman.
Coming off a Class 1A state runner-up finish, the Spartans have just one senior (Buss) on this year's roster after graduating all-state tournament team selections Sam Meyers and Heather Hook along with fellow senior stalwart Riley Ackerman. Though so far, the youth movement and positional changes haven't slowed the Spartans much.
"We have a number of kids - some new faces and some faces in new places," Sents said.
"We're still working through those roles. You can tell there's a miscommunication every once in a while, but we're growing."
Grundy Center never trailed in the second set and seized a 15-8 cushion on consecutive blocks by Buss. Though a scrappy Comet squad hung around with a 12-5 surge as a Kendall Scurr ace and a Spartan error pulled the home team within 20-18. Grundy Center won the next three points, though BCLUW (2-6) took the following four with Olivia Callaway's kill closing the gap to 23-22. A hitting error stalled the Comets' rally as Grundy Center seized a two-game lead.
A trio of miscues put the Comets in a 4-1 hole to start the third game, though three kills and an ace from Nicole Montgomery sparked a BCLUW burst. Callaway's block ended an extended rally including a pass that bounced off the wrestling mat hanging from the ceiling to reclaim an 8-7 edge for the Comets.
"We went all out and were a lot more aggressive tonight," BCLUW coach Kristen Garber said.
"We're pleased with the effort but disappointed with the loss."
Though the Comets have dropped five of their last six, Garber has seen improvement and expects good things for her squad if they can match Tuesday night's intensity.
"Tonight we were clicking, we had a little bit more of an aggressive mentality and you could see that," Garber said.
"What we're shooting for is to get better each time out, and I definitely thought we were better tonight."
Grundy Center retaliated with the next three points and later stretched the lead to 19-13 following a pair of Saak kills and a Faust ace. BCLUW twice closed within five at 20-15 and 22-17, before a Lindeman kill keyed the Spartans' final push.
Ralston converted all 15 of her serves, while Sents (12-of-13), Mathews (13-of-14, 1 ace) and Saak (9-of-10, 1 ace) also had strong outings from the service line. Mathews added five kills, while Buss and Saak each had a block assist and solo block.
Faust notched 16 digs, Piper Johanns had 11 and Mathews and Lindeman each chipped in seven. Faust and Mathews each notched a block assist.
Montgomery led the Comets with seven kills, while Callaway and Mallory Vawter both had four. Haley Veldhouse and Hannah Sams recorded three kills apiece. Bobbi Paper dished out 12 assists and Nicolette Simpson added seven. Callaway came up with 13 digs and Simpson had 11. Montgomery had six block assists, while Simpson and Vawter each converted all 12 of their serves.
BCLUW travels to West Marshall next Tuesday, while the Spartans meet up with the Trojans in State Center Thursday, before heading to the Aplington-Parkersburg tournament on Saturday. Grundy Center hosts AGWSR next Tuesday.