By Andy Krutsinger, Mt. Pleasant News
It wasn?t as easy as the Wolves hoped on Tuesday night, but the Winfield-Mt. Union volleyball team is headed to the second round.
The Wolves faced a furious test from Keota in the final three sets after dominating the first, but the Wolves were able to scrap out a four-set win.
W-MU jumped out to a fast start in set one. The Wolves scored 15 of the first 16 points, taking a 15-1 lead thanks in part to three kills by Lexee Hartsock and three straight aces from Jami Wilkerson.
Keota could never get back in the game after the fast start from the Wolves. Aaliyah Heldman helped get the Eagles back within 15 points with an ace to make it 23-8 late, but W-MU scored two of the next three points and it was 1-0 Wolves.
It was an all-new game in set number two as the Eagles punched back. Keota scored the first two points of the game and held a steady lead throughout the match. The Eagles led by as much as four on two different occasions, the lates of which was 15-11.
W-MU staged a comeback, however, The Wolves scored six straight points, tying the game at 15-15 on a kill by Hartsock and then scoring two more to take a 17-15 lead.
Keota punched back with two points of their own, the second of which came on a kill by Jillian Schulte, which tied the game back up at 17-17.
W-MU didn?t relinquish the lead again, however. Jenna Buffington made a diving save to keep the next point alive and the Wolves made it 18-17. Buffington then made it 19-17 with a kill, and Molly Jennings let the Wolves to a 22-17 lead with a serving streak that included one ace.
The third set was back and forth all game long. The game was tied on seven different occasions and neither team had a lead higher than four points.
W-MU led 20-19 before the Eagles scored three straight on an ace from Heldman and back-to-back kills from Frankie Johnson and Heldman to take a 22-20 advantage.
W-MU scored four of the next five points and had Keota on the brink after another Hartsock made it 24-23 Wolves, but Keota capitalized on a couple Wolves mistakes to re-take the lead at 25-24 and stole the game on a Jolee Walker ace to extend the match to the fourth set.
Keota took control of the fourth set midway through the match, leading by as much as six points at 18-12. W-MU was able to regroup and comeback, however, going on an 11-3 run to take a 23-21 advantage.
Keota wouldn?t go down easily. Johnson responded with a kill and Heldman added two kills of her own to give Keota a 24-23 lead. Buffington helped W-MU come back with a kill and an ace but sailed the next serve over the line and the game went into extra points, tied 25-25.
W-MU was finally able to breathe two points later. The Wolves retook the lead at 26-25 and Maci Richardson put a block up on an Eagles kill attempt that bounced off the net and back, scoring the 27th point for W-MU and ending the season for Keota.
After the game, W-MU head coach David Pieart said he was relieved that his team was able to move on after not playing their best in the final three sets.
?We did not play our best tonight and some of that was forced on us by Keota,? Pieart said. ?But we survived and at this point and time there are no style points.?
The Wolves? head coach also said the fast start may have contributed to playing less sharp in the later sets.
?I think we were a little sharp coming straight out and they were a little nervous,? he said. ?That lulled us into a false sense of security when they dramatically improved in the later sets... Sometimes it?s a danger, or a trap, to win the first game so easy.?
W-MU was led in kills by Buffington, who finished the game with 15. Hartsock had 13 at the end of the night. Sweezer finished with five, and the duo of Richardson and Pearl Krieger-Coble finished with two apiece.
Lauren Jamison had 23 assists on the night to lead the squad. Kyndal Townsley had six digs to lead the way.
Wilkerson had an astounding day serving the ball, going 29-30 with seven aces. The Wolves had 11 aces overall with Buffington netting two and Jamison and Jennings each netting one.
Hartsock had three blocks to lead the team. Buffington had two blocks and Sweezer finished with one.
Iowa Mennonite stormed back from an 0-2 deficit to knock off WACO (18-25, 23-25, 25-22, 25-23, 18-16) in the other game on W-MU?s part of the bracket. The Wolves will face IMS in Winfield on Monday, Oct. 23, at 7 p.m.