IOWA CITY– Conventional wisdom suggested Tuesday night’s battle between West High and crosstown rival City High would be an epic confrontation, likely to go to five games. With West up 20-9 and ahead 2-0 in the third match, conventional wisdom was seen slipping out the side door. The Women of Troy went on to take the third set, keeping The Spike, the traveling trophy the teams fight for each year. West has had it 17 times to City’s 14 and won it last year as well.
As the defending state champions, who defeated City in five games last year in the state tournament, conventional wisdom gave a nod to West to dominate again this year in the annual tussle. But, most of that champion team has graduated, leaving behind a young team and only two members with meaningful varsity experience. On City’s side of the net, an experienced team, hungry for revenge.
The reality was a close-fought game one, taken 26-24 by West. The Women of Troy took the second set 25-22 and cruised to the 25-20 win in the third. In fairness, the Little Hawks were without standout Michaela Nelson. West coach Kathy Bresnahan empathized.
“We know what loss is like,” she said referring of course to last season and the loss of West standout Caroline Found, who died in August 2011 in a moped accident. In the aftermath, other players had to step up and fill her role. Likewise, City had to find ways to compensate for Nelson’s absence. “They looked shell-shocked that they didn’t have Michaela out there,” Bresnahan said.
For their part, the Women of Troy emphasized blocking, and the strong defensive effort stymied the Little Hawks.
“That was our goal,” the coach said. “We’ve really stressed blocking. We’re not as big as we’ve been in the past, but we said last year, that’s why we beat City…our blocking and control of the net.” Overall, the coach said “I thought we could compete with City if we didn’t let them dictate the tempo.” The rivals could meet again in a regional semifinal on Thursday, Oct. 25. As the season’s end draws near, Bresnahan said her squad is moving in the right direction.
Laynie Whitehead led with 11 kills, Toni Martins had nine, Hannah Fairfield had eight, Mollie Mason made seven and Michaela Morgan had three. Lizzy Klemme and Ally Disterhoft had one kill each. Klemme made 18 assists while Whitehead had 16. Martins led in digs with 20 and Madi Miller had 18. Disterhoft had four block assists while Fairfield, Mason, Morgan and Whitehead all had three each. Mason had two solo blocks as well. Martins was perfect in serving, going 12-12. Also perfect were Mason and Miller with nine each. Whitehead made 12 of 15, Morgan was 11 of 14 and Klemme went 15-17. Ace serves went to Klemme, Mason, Miller, Morgan and Whitehead.
The Women of Troy improved to 14-9-0 and 4-0 in the MVC Mississippi Division, taking over the divisional lead and bumped Johnston out of the top 10 Class 5A teams in the state according to the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union in their Thursday, Oct. 4, rankings. City High dropped one spot, from third to fourth while Ankeny held onto the top spot.
Regional play starts Monday, Oct. 22, at home for West as Muscatine comes to town. The winner faces the Little Hawks at City High on Thursday, Oct. 25. The regional final is set for Tuesday, Oct. 30 at West. Start time for all three matches is 7 p.m.