TAMA - South Tama County coach Michelle Bradley was in desperate search of her squad after game two of its Class 3A Region 5 match with Benton Community on Monday.
The Bobcats had just taken their first set from the Trojans this season, and Bradley tried to find the real Trojans in between sets.
Luckily, STC eventually showed up, got big performances from three hitters and advanced to the regional semifinals after a 25-21, 23-25, 25-19, 25-18 victory.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
South Tama County senior Samantha Holtz (36) puts away an attack shot against Benton Community’s Haley Schulte (2) during the Trojans’ four-game win over the Bobcats on Monday night in Tama. Holtz finished with 13 kills, 11 digs and was 15-for-15 in serving.
"It was just not our team," Bradley said. "I said to them after game two, 'Hello, this is Coach Bradley, where is my team?' They finally pulled it together there for a little bit, but I really don't know what the deal was."
South Tama (18-12) beat Benton for the third time this season. The first two were in straight sets.
The Bobcats came to play against STC but just didn't have an answer for Trisha Walz, Sam Holtz and Paige Van Dyk at the net.
"It may have been opening-round jitters," Bradley said. "They were all pumped up because our student body did a good job with the beach attire night. I don't have an answer for why were sluggish, but I will take the win."
The victory pushes STC into Thursday's semifinal against Class 3A No. 5 Nevada (30-11). The Bears bested East Marshall in three games in their quarterfinal match Monday and will bring a nine-match win streak to the contest.
"I got a glimpse of the Nevada JV a few weeks ago, and if their varsity is as good as their JV we better bring our 'A' game," Bradley said. "They are a pretty good team."
One thing that has to get better before Thursday for STC is serving. The Trojans gave away 13 points off missed serves Monday. That helped keep the Bobcats in a lot of rallies.
Benton turned a 6-3 deficit into a 9-6 lead in game one and led 13-10 before South Tama rallied to tie it at 14, 15 and 18. The Bobcats (8-26) had a 21-18 lead but seven straight points from the Trojans closed out the opener.
The 7-0 run featured three kills from Van Dyk and Holtz ended the frame with a kill and a block. Holtz finished with 13 kills, 11 digs, two blocks and was 15-for-15 in serves. Van Dyk added 12 kills.
Another fast start in the second game put Benton out in front 8-6 neither team had more than a three-point advantage at any point in the set. The Bobcats led 21-18 after a kill from Maggie Weirather. Two kills from Holtz and a Bobcat error helped even the game at 21-all, but three straight for Benton gave the visitors game point. STC made things interesting in the final rallies but Natalie Parizek put the set away with a block.
The Trojans though put the loss behind them in game three. Van Dyk broke a 3-all tie with six consecutive serves. The run included two kills from Tori Appelgate.
The advantage Van Dyk gave her team ended up being a key to the set after Benton rallied to within 11-8. The Trojans eventually turned a 12-10 lead into a 19-11 advantage thanks to a Walz kill and ace and consecutive aces from Madison Baack. Van Dyk came through with a couple more kills before a Holtz kill and a Bobcat error pushed the Trojans back in front in the match.
"Sometimes we have a hard time putting the point behind us," Bradley said. "We need to think 'who cares.' We are working on getting past previous points, so I am proud of the team because usually when we have lost a close game like that in the past, we have shut down the next set."
The Trojans continued to have momentum in the final set. Walz had three kills in the first eight STC points and the Trojans eventually led 13-6 after a Holtz kill.
Benton rallied to within 15-13 and then closed the gap to 17-16. That was the closest the Bobcats would get though as a service error, hitting error and a Baack ace gave the Trojans a 21-17 lead and STC never looked back.
Baack finished with four aces, 34 assists and was 18-of-19 from behind the service line. Walz also had a team-high 16 kills and 10 digs in the win.
"You have that kind of kills coming out of both sides and your middle, you should be pretty pleased, and I am pretty pleased," Bradley said. "Benton was following our middle so it is important to have others that can step up. We just need to find another hot hitter. We had it tonight."
Besides improved serving, Bradley would like her front row to be more active for the Nevada match.
"Our front row needs to be more active," Bradley said. "They need to be more active on fakes. We need to show the other side that you are not going to know who is going to get the set. When we move like that, it can make their blockers late and will allow us to get some kills."
Bradley said the Trojans usually play up or down to the level of their competition so she is banking on that for Thursday's match against state-ranked Nevada. ... Belle Tyynismaa had 13 digs for the Trojans and Catie Collins had six digs in limited action.