WINFIELD — In volleyball, the setter is the engine of an offense. She is the prime communicator and quarterback of the team. Iowa Mennonite School did not have its starting setter Monday against Winfield-Mount Union in a Class 1A Region 7 second-round match. The result was a 3-0 victory for the Wolves.
The victory advances W-MU (16-14) to Thursday’s regional semifinal at New London (26-9).
Iowa Mennonite ends the year at 19-15 and in a three-way tie for second place in the Southeast Iowa Super Conference North Division.
IMS took an 8-4 behind an ace from Katelyn Lehman, a kill from Danae McGaffey and a block from Mia Graber, but were outscored 15-3 and IMS coach Shannon Miller called timeout trailing 19-11. It didn’t help as a kill from Anna Hudson got it to set point and the Wolves took the first-set win 25-14.
“We knew they played good defense, so we had to pick our spots, be fast on our feet and communicate,” W-MU coach David Pieart said. “I think they were out of sorts to begin with because their setter didn’t make the trip.”
“We just found out 36 hours before game time that she would not be available to participate,” Miller said. “I thought the girls handled it well. When we have to make changes, they adapt pretty easily.”
W-MU took an 8-2 lead in the second set, but IMS refused to fold. They were ignited by the hustle of libero Suzanna Yoder, who refused to let the ball hit the floor anywhere near her. At one point she dove to keep the ball alive, scrambled to her feet and got a kill to get IMS within 14-11. It was as close as they would get as kills by Jenna Buffington helped W-MU to a 25-16 set win.
IMS took a 6-1 lead in the third set as Rubye Ney connected for a kill and McGaffey played an ace and Lehman got a kill at 8-4.
“We got frazzled a bit in the third set and played not to lose,” Pieart said. “We did a good job of getting back into it without timeouts.”
A kill from Madie Anderson pulled the Wolves within 12-9. A kill by Buffington tied the set at 13 and Miller called time trailing 14-13.
“They did a really good job of rallying, especially making Set 3 a barn burner,” Pieart said. “We just kept preaching to stay focused, stay calm and keep doing what we do.”
The first serve after the timeout was an ace by Kyndal Townsley that Miller thought was clearly out. Her reaction to the ‘in’ call earned her just her second yellow card in five years as coach.
A Buffington spike made the score 18-14 and the longest rally of the night ended with a block by Hudson for a 19-14 edge.
IMS rallied to within 19-18 and 20-18, but lost a point when Miller stood up to talk to a player. Graber got a kill at 21-18 and another to get within 21-20.
Each team called timeout in the next couple of points, but Buffington scored with a back-row kill, another from the middle and an outside hit ended it at 25-21.
Buffington connected on 17 kills for W-MU, including a hammer for match point.
“She has been our leading hitter,” Pieart said. “She is our go-to hitter, which is pretty impressive for a sophomore.”
Hudson supplied six kills, Jami Wilkerson and Maddie Anderson had five each while Liana Sweezer hit four and Kayla Edwards three. Edwards put up 32 assists. Townsley landed four aces, Wilkerson three and Carlee Sloan two. Buffington and Hudson had two blocks each and Sweezer one. Wilkerson had 21, Townsley and Buffington 20 each.
Graber had six kills and Ney five for IMS. Yani Gutirrez-Larios had 10 assists. Yoder had 26 digs and three aces.
Miller spent time after the game with the seniors who played and told them she appreciated all the time and effort they had put into the program.
“They were the core of the team. They are a great group of gals and I love them. I am really proud of the IMS program.”