By Brenden West Herald Assistant Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — MILES — During the first 20 points of each set, Easton Valley played Maquoketa Valley close. But the River Hawks couldn’t quite get over the hump, falling to the Wildcats in three, 25-9, 26-24, 25-16, in Tri Rivers Conference volleyball Thursday.
“The hardest thing for us has been to stay positive,” EV coach Denise Larson said. “At times, it’s hard to see a way out. ... We’re still trying to find the right combination of players, but tonight I felt we were much more aggressive than on other nights.”
In the opener, the Wildcats turned an 11-8 lead into a 22-8 lead behind the serving of junior middle Heather Sabers and aided by a string of Hawks errors. EV miscues led to 16 MV points.
Once the River Hawks controlled the ball, they played the Wildcats in a much tighter Set 2. In the back row, senior libero Gabriela Vasconcelos turned would-be kills into EV digs, including a diving save near the endline wall at 11-7 that kept a lengthy rally alive. Meanwhile, outside Lizzie Meier provided the offense, scoring two of her team’s first four points on kills. Later, with Easton Valley leading 16-13, Meier strung together two straight aces as part of a four-point Hawks rally. Kallie Miller followed with a run of her own, giving EV a 22-14 advantage.
Then the game started to unravel. “Timid” summed up the conclusion of Set 2 for Larson.
“During the second set, I thought we focused really well,” she said. “We got timid and they stayed aggressive.”
The Wildcats stormed back on an 8-1 run making it 23-22 Easton Valley. Hawks right-side hitter Brook Smithson delivered on a hard block on the outside, giving her team match point. Larson said she believed her team was about to even the match at one set apiece.
Maquoketa responded with an offensive revival. Nicole Kudrna staved off set point with a kill on the outside, Brooke Wooten followed with an ace and then Macy Anderegg delivered on two straight kills, giving the Wildcats the 26-24 victory.
In the final set, the Hawks built a 12-7 lead, thanks to more solid net play by Meier and fellow outside Sabrina Bormann. MV went on a 13-2 run, with Kudrna forcing the Hawks out of system at the service line. The Maquoketa Valley lead was 20-14, and despite a late kill by Bormann, the Wildcats continued their offensive push with the match ending on an ace by Sabers.
Bormann and Meier led Easton Valley with six kills each, with Meier also racking up four aces. Vasconcelos led the Hawks with 11 digs, and Miller led with 11 assists. Mallory Kilburg put forth a solid all-around performance with three kills, eight assists and four digs.
Kudrna led Maquoketa Valley with six kills, three aces and two blocks.
MAQUOKETA VALLEY 25-26-25, EASTON VALLEY 9-24-16
Easton Valley statistical leaders
Kills -- Sabrina Bormann 6, Lizzie Meier 6, Mallory Kilburg 3. Assists -- Kallie Miller 11, Kilburg 8. Digs -- Gabriela Vasconcelos 11, Meier 5, Kilburg 4, Bormann 4. Blocks -- Ashley Adams 1, Kilburg 1, Brook Smithson 1. Aces -- Meier 4, Smithson 1, Miller 1, Kilburg 1.