By Doug Brenneman, JOURNAL Sports
RIVERSIDE -- The playing of the national anthem starts sporting events, but what happens if the prerecorded version won?t play?
If one is at a Highland High School volleyball match, just recruit a player to sing the anthem.
That?s what happened Thursday in a Southeast Iowa Super Conference North Division match against Louisa-Muscatine.
It was the first home match of the season, so maybe not everything was properly prepared for the playing of the anthem.
The starting lineups had been announced and the teams were standing, staring at the flag when Alyssa Brase, a junior at Highland, came to the rescue.
?I was just kind of thrown in there for that,? Brase said. ?It was not planned, but it is just like a game. You have to go and do it. Having my team support me through everything is awesome. They were very supportive about singing the anthem.?
She had to sing it a capella and did a fine job, then took the court and got a coupleof blocks to start the Huskies out to a 5-1 lead in the first set on the way to a 3-1 match victory.
It was the first win of the season after two losses in Keota?s tournament and four losses in the West Branch tournament.
It was also the first win for new coach Whitney Howard.
?It feels a lot better than losing,? she said.
The Huskies had spent the week practicing being more aggressive and it paid off as they won the first set by a 25-15 score.
?What we focused on all week was just bringing it,? Howard said. ?In practice, we have been doing so well. Then when we got to the tournaments, we weren?t doing so well. There were times in practice, we were not bringing it, so we sat down and talked about it for a half an hour. We had a good bead on what we needed to do because I know we have the ability.?
Brase showed her ability with dominating play at the net.
When the Falcons tied the first set at 7-7, Brase?s kill put the Huskies back in the lead and her ace was the set-winning point.
?My teammates were screaming for me and shouting for me and that got me going, which got us all going,? Brase said. ?I think it really helped. I thought our setters really helped us. When one person gets up, we all get up. It is just great.?
The second set was tied 11 times before the Falcons scored the last five points for a 25-20 win.
The Huskies responded by taking an 8-4 lead in the third set with the eighth point an ace by Brase. The Huskies served 19 aces in the match.
Aces from Emily Streb helped Highland build a 17-11 lead, but the Falcons responded to lead 18-11. Howard called time and Brase got a block for the first point after the timeout to tie it at 18. L-M took a 21-18 lead, but a kill from Brase and two aces from Aly Stokes put Highland ahead and Macey Thoman finished it with one of her six kills for a 25-22 win and a 2-1 set lead.
?I feel like we did well defensively, because we had a couple of blocks at the net and got some good touches,? Howard said. ?There were some good digs that we got to by driving forward and attacking that ball. That was important for us to convert into offense.?
Holly Schneider led the Huskies with 10 digs. Kylie Wood had five aces. Brase finished with five blocks and five kills.
?Alyssa has done amazing,? Howard said. ?I think she was on the fresh/soph team last year and she skipped junior varsity and is starting for us now. She does so well at the net. We need to work on her swinging and she will be a great all-around player for us.?
Stokes displayed her all-around ability in the deciding set. She had two kills for a 3-1 lead. The set was tied 10 times, the last at 21. Highland had a 13-8 lead at one point but the Falcons tied it at 13.
?Our passing was OK, but of course you can always work on passing,? Howard said. ?That will make it easier for our setters.?
Stokes hammered a kill for the 14-13 lead. She had another of her nine kills in the match to tie it at 16, another for a 21-18 lead, and a crosscourt smash for the match winner. It was 25-23 for the Huskies.
?We have the talent and the ability, but none of it was showing,? Howard said. ?We focused on controlling what we can control. I thought it was important to get them to live in the present. We did a better job of focusing on every single point because they are all important. They had their heads on good tonight and started bringing it all week in practice. It?s nice to see the results of that tonight.?
Highland continues North Division play Tuesday at Mediapolis.