English Valleys rallies to beat neighbor Keota

Cheyenne Conrad (21) of English Valleys used her height to alter Keota’s shots, ending up with three blocks. Even when she didn’t get a hand on the ball, she made Keota think twice before going for a kill.

Earlier this season, E.V. and Keota clashed on a neutral court, with E.V. besting Keota in two sets. The two squared off again on Thursday, Sept. 21, when Keota traveled to North English. E.V. got a much-needed win, coming off a difficult loss to Belle Plaine, while Keota had gotten their first win earlier in the week.

Nothing came easy for either side with E.V. getting a marginal lead early on in the first set. Some kills kept things rolling for the Lady Bears, but Keota wouldn’t let them run away. The Eagles rally fell short and E.V. took the first set 25-18.

"They had their setter attack us in some spots where we were more vulnerable," E.V. coach Becky Becker said. "Our defense made some mistakes which kept them in it."

Just when momentum seemed to be teetering, it fell fully towards the home team in the second set. The Lady Bears responded by playing aggressive and made sure to keep Keota at bay most of the set. It was the most complete game of the night for E.V., which showed on the scoreboard as well with a 25-13 win.

Keota found some hope in the third set, which continued to grow as they took a lead. E..V. would battle back, but couldn't make a long enough run to extinguish Keota. Just when things started to fall in Keota's favor, the Lady Bears turned to their playmakers, who've led them all season.

"They went on a roll after gaining some confidence in the third," Becker said. "Our serve receive got a little shaky, but we work on that a lot in practice."

Once E.V. cleaned up some errors and got the ball back on their side of the net, the offense took over. In the end it was too much for Keota, as the Lady Bears completed the rally to take the final set 25-19.

"We're better than we were even two weeks ago," Becker said. "We went through a shaky period where we started playing safe. Tonight, we got back to playing aggressive, and that helps us. As long as we maintain that, our confidence will continue to grow."

The ball was on E.V.'s side often, 60 serves total from the team, with 57 being successful. Mallory Hester and Maddy Shaw combined for 29 successful serves, and each recorded two aces. Hester also had 12 assists and five digs, while Shaw chipped in with eight digs and three kills.

The Lady Bears defense did commit some timely errors on defense, but they also recorded nine blocks. Audrey Grove and Cheyenne Conrad totaled seven blocks, standing tall and sturdy at the net. Their height and aggression helped them produce 12 of the team's 21 kills throughout the match.

"We don't have a star player, we all are quite capable of doing very good," Becker said. "When we all hustle and we're in sync, they do what they need to do."

Two other girls that stood out were Sydney Olson and Lexie Miller. They received Keota's serves and dove on the court which resulted in 24 digs. Miller also had some instant offense with two aces, while Olson had one of her own to go along with five kills.

E.V. hoped to continue building team confidence when they traveled to Sigourney on Monday, Sept. 25. Both teams headed into Monday having won two of their previous five matches.