For the second time in two match-ups, the Van Meter volleyball team was in action against West Central Activities Conference rival Woodward-Granger Monday, Oct. 28.
The Bulldogs were hoping to avenge their regular season-ending loss to the Hawks back on Oct. 17. Unfortunately, despite a strong start, the Bulldogs couldn’t find a win across the final three sets of action and saw their season come to a close with a 3-1 defeat.
As the match started, the crowd was loud and the atmosphere electric, something that was amplified with Van Meter’s strong start. That strong start began with a 4-1 lead for the Bulldogs with strong striking overall. Woodward-Granger didn’t make it easy as they jostled back and forth with Van Meter for five lead changes. Neither team could find a way to lead by more than two points throughout the majority of the set. Once the Bulldogs pushed ahead 19-18, they finally began to largen their lead. Van Meter slightly edged out Woodward-Granger 6-5 over the final eleven points to take the set win.
“That first set was by far our strongest set and we really battled there,” began head coach Sara Cook. “It definitely was a strong start and one we wish we could have replicated throughout the rest of the game.”
The boom of the crowd and the electric atmosphere was high but things would start dying down from there. The Bulldogs were slow out of the gate once set two-game came around and quickly saw themselves down 4-2 to begin action. They stormed back to take a 13-10 lead but the wind was quickly taken away from their sails thanks to a 7-1 run by the Hawks. Woodward-Granger senior Emma Drake really gashed the Bulldogs in set two and helped the Hawks flip a deficit into a 24-19 lead late in set two. Even with strong serving from Abby and Norah Matt, a Bulldog comeback was not in the cards as they fell in set two 25-23.
Set three held a similar feel for Van Meter who held just one lead throughout the entirety of set three. A quick 7-3 deficit had Van Meter in a quick hole and the best they could manage within the set was a 14-14 tie. Even with several more strong comeback attempts, set three fell by the wayside as well thanks to a 7-2 run by the Hawks to wrap up the set loss 25-18. What would be the fourth and final set held three lead changes but the only lead the Bulldogs found was an early 8-7 advantage. From there it was tough sledding and the Bulldogs couldn’t recover, falling in the final set and the match 25-20.
It was quite a shame as the Bulldogs were riding on quite a strong season with historical ties. The 20 wins produced by the team marked just the second time in program history that a Van Meter squad hit the 20 win mark. It was certainly a tough pill to swallow as the Bulldogs produced some of their lowest totals of the season. There was a lot of athleticism and fight shown on the court but in the end, as Cook noted, it was the mental side of the game that took them down.
“You could tell that they really wanted it and fought hard but in the end, they were scared of making a mistake and that was our downfall,” began Cook. “They were scared on the serving line, we knew where the open spots were but we just couldn’t hit them. They were scared of hitting and just overall nervous and that’s purely a mental thing and not a game thing. They knew they could play better but they just didn’t have it fully mentally tonight.”
The loss, unfortunately, concludes the season for the Bulldogs and gives an abrupt departure for seniors Daelynn Coppinger, Emma Barr, Sammy Jimmerson, Regan Heckman, Audrey Gruss, and superstar Natalie Barth. Looking for the silver lining in it all, coach Cook went on to further talk about the future and the excitement it brings.
“We are certainly going to miss Daelynn in the middle and Natalie a ton but at the same time we have a lot of young players and a lot of returners for next season,” said Cook. “I told the girls that next year is going to be a really strong year and even though we lose Natalie and Daelynn, we have a strong core to work with for next year.”
The Bulldogs effectively end their season with a record of 20-9 with a mark of 7-2 inside conference play.