English Valleys goes down in straight sets

The Lady Bears came into their matchup against North Mahaska on September 27 hoping to buck a losing streak of three matches. Two of those three went into extra sets including a narrow loss to Keota in five and a loss to Sigourney in four. The Lady Bears started out strong but were unable to keep it going throughout, getting swept by North Mahaska.

For EV to give themselves a chance they’d need to come out firing and take the lead early on. They did just that, winning five of the first six points in the opening set, playing quick and playing confident on their side of the net. North Mahaska would counter with three points of their own to diminish the lead but EV wouldn’t relinquish it. The Lady Bears had North Mahaska on their heels and after a couple lost points due to mistakes, took a timeout.

The Lady Warhawks put together a rally which began to change the tide of the match early on, charging ahead to lead 19-13, leading to another timeout by EV. Zoe Deucore, libero for NM, played a big part in the charge by mixing in a variety of areas she served to which led to multiple aces or quick points. The Lady Warhawks ended the first set with an emphatic kill from their outside hitter to win it 25-15.

“When we pass the ball, we can compete with anybody, it’s that simple,” Lady Bears coach Becky Becker said. “We have to play for 25 points, we can’t get up early and let them have a run. We’re playing to seven and letting the other team have 10.”

With the momentum on their side, the Lady Warhawks continued to play well by taking the 11-6 advantage in set two. Some mistakes on defense, along with some missed serves were hurting EV and allowed NM to take a sizeable lead early on. The Lady Bears were able to close the deficit but were unable to get close enough to give themselves a chance at taking the lead. Just when it seemed EV had things going, NM would end their rally and then extend the lead once more. Like the opening set, another kill from NM ended the second set, 25-14.

With their backs against the wall, the Lady Bears slowly righted the ship in the third set, which began by taking a 4-1 lead. NM responded with three straight points to tie it up and then added on another three points, leading to a timeout by EV. The Lady Bears responded by making a crucial run in the middle stages of the third set but still found themselves down 14-19. Despite the deficit, a little bit of the momentum began to shift back to the home side.

The Lady Warhawks answered every EV rally with one of their own, including a couple big kill shots to take a 22-17 lead late. NM almost blew it after EV took a timeout as the Lady Bears stormed back by winning seven of the next nine points, pulling within two, which led to the first timeout of the match called by NM.

“We just have to want to play from being ahead,” Becker said. “We’re making good rallies and we’re staying competitive, we just have to step through the door. Part of that’s my job and part of that is their job to try and find a way to get it done for 25 points.”

The Lady Bears gave it all they had, knowing if they lost the next point it would be over and if they could put together one more rally, they could have a chance to regroup. It wasn’t meant to be though, as NM sealed it by winning the 25th point, narrowly holding off the late charge by the home team but winning 25-22.

“I think some of our young kids are really stepping up and that’s definitely encouraging,” Becker said. “We should put consistent on our t-shirts, because we’re not. We do some things well and when we do that we’re fun to watch. I truly believe we have the talent to compete with anyone.”

The schedule didn’t get any easier for EV when the girls headed to play a tournament at New London on September 29 before the last week of the regular season got underway.