CAMANCHE — The Camanche Indians are a step closer to taking a top slot in the River Valley Conference after beating both West Branch and West Liberty in the first round of the conference tournament Tuesday at home.

The Indians struggled to find their usual momentum in the first match against the West Branch Bears. Although they took the lead early, a string of serves from West Branch’s Abbey Fryauf let the Bears tie and then take the lead 19-18.

“We talk about coming out strong,” Coach Heather Clark said about the first match. “We’ve played West Branch twice, beat them twice. I don’t think that sense of urgency was in the girls.”

Clark called a timeout, and the Indians were able to come out of the huddle and finish the first set 21-19.

The Indians got into more of a rhythm the next set and sealed the match with a 21-16 victory. One of the biggest problems throughout the night for Camanche was passing.

“Serve-receive tonight was the worst it has been all season,” Clark said. “We need to put the ball down, but it has to get to our setter first.”

It was something the Indians noticed on the court as well.

“We came out slow tonight. Passing was not where we want it to be,” junior Madi Parson said. Parson led the team in kills with 18 and was a leader in digs with nine. “Our mentality is always come out and win no matter what is going on. A great team can win no matter what’s going on.”

Still, they struggled against a team they had handily beaten before and had to take on West Liberty next. The Indians had yet to face the Comets before the match Tuesday.

“I knew they’ve had a good program the last few years, and they lived up to it,” Clark said. “They’re a good team.

“If you look at our conference, we have eight teams out of the 13 teams in our conference that have been in and out of the state rankings this year. This is a tough conference, so playing West Branch and West Liberty was going to be tough.”

After a back-and-forth first set, the Comets served two aces to pull ahead 18-16. That’s when Clark called a timeout.

“When we call a time out we just get them refocused,” Clark said. “We know they can get out there and do what they need to do. We remind them to do their job on the court, and then everything will fall into place.”

It helped. The Indians came out and put the ball down on a Madi Parson kill, and Parson followed it up with an ace to tie the game 18-18. Then there was a back-row kill from Parson to pull ahead.

“Everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes it’s more than one mistake,” Parson said. “You always have to pick each other up no matter who it is because if I’m having a bad game there’s always other people there to back you up.”

Although a serving error tied the first set again, freshman Haley Duran put the ball down. Senior Paige Waltz followed that up with a service ace to take the first set 21-19.

“Knowing you can trust everyone takes a lot of stress off of everyone,” Parson said. “You know you aren’t reliant on one person for everything and you can mix things up so no one knows what’s coming.”

The second set had a similar story, and the Indians ended up taking it 21-19, with the Comets going into the net for the final point.

The Indians move into the next round of the River Valley Conference Tournament that takes place on Thursday in Camanche.

“We know there are some strong hitters coming up, and our blocking was off tonight,” Clark said. “Getting our block up a lot quicker is going to be key for us going forward.”

Although they face ranked teams like Iowa City Regina, Wilton and North Cedar moving forward, they are just focusing on their game.

“Don’t notice the name, don’t look at the name,” Parson said. “Play the team, not the name.”

Comets go 2-1 at Tipton

TIPTON — Bellevue won two of its three matches Tuesday at the Tipton portion of the River Valley Conference tournament.

The Comets defeated Northeast 21-17, 21-13 and Mid-Prairie 21-6, 21-13 but lost 21-14, 21-8 to the host Tigers, who are No. 8 in the Class 3A state rankings.

Rebecca Schroeder had 24 kills to lead the Comets, including 10 against Mid-Prairie and nine against Northeast. She also was the team’s assist leader with 25. Schroeder also served an ace in each match, tying Eliza Scheckel for the team high with three for the night.

Emma Kelchen added 15 kills for Bellevue.

On defense, Giana Michels recorded 18 digs, Schroeder had 16 and Paige Klein had 13. Lindsey Banowetz was in on two blocks.

Northeast lost all three of its matches. Mid-Prairie beat the Rebels 18-21, 21-18, 15-13, and Tipton defeated them 21-9, 21-8. Tipton also beat Mid-Prairie 21-9, 21-2.

CAMANCHE 21-21, WEST BRANCH 10-16

Camanche statistical leaders

Kills — Madi Parson 8, Sami Puckett 4, Tarah Wehde 4. Assists — Hanna Nissen 9, Puckett 7. Aces — Parson 3, Marly Bussa 2, Puckett 2, Paige Waltz 2. Blocks — Haley Duran 2. Digs — Bussa 5, Parson 4, Puckett 3.

CAMANCHE 21-21, WEST LIBERTY 19-19

Camanche statistical leaders

Kills — Parson 10, Nissen 5, Lea Lefebure 4. Assists — Puckett 14, Nissen 8. Aces — Parson 3, Bussa 2. Blocks — Parson 3, Duran 2. Digs — Bussa 7, Parson 5.

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