Mar. 6—OTTUMWA — What a difference a few weeks can make.
What a difference a few points can make, too.
Just a few weeks earlier, both the Jefferson and Indian Hills volleyball teams were desperately seeking success. The Vikings lost six of their first eight matches this season while the Warriors were 1-5 after losing the first two matches at the Blue Dragon Classic in Hutchinson 14 days earlier.
On Friday, the Warriors found themselves in a four-set battle with a resilient Vikings' squad, who had battled back to within a game of .500 with four wins in five matches. Jefferson showed that resiliency several times on Friday at the Hellyer Student Life Center, nearly stealing the first two sets late against the Warriors.
In the end, Indian Hills proved to be pretty resilient as well. Much like their season thus far, the Warriors got on a run and never looked back closing out their seventh straight win scoring 13 of the final 16 points to clinch a 25-15 win in the third set before finishing the 26-28, 26-24, 25-15, 25-18 win off by scoring 10 of the final 12 points against the visitors from Missouri.
"I kept reminding the girls not to take the foot off the gas in those final two sets," IHCC head volleyball coach Lyndsey Michel said. "You can't get to 20 points in a set and stop. The only way to execute is to continue to hit. We had a couple girls start off slow, but once we found the rhythm, things started going our way a little bit more."
Gabriela Cavalcante Oliveria finished strong, returning to the court after missing Tuesday's regional sweep of Marshalltown with a sore knee. Oliveria wouldn't score her first kill until the 34th point of the match, but finished the night as the leading attacker with 15 kills including three in a row to clinch the fourth and final set.
"She keeps working hard, but she put a big run together for us late to put this one away," Michel said of Oliveria. "She's very good at placing the ball where she wants it to go. I do have to tell her at the end of the matches to quit overthinking things. I feel like, especially at the end, she can let the ball get away from her at times."
Despite trailing for most of the first two sets, Jefferson (6-8) nearly won both rallying from a 20-15 deficit to win the second set, taking the lead for the first time in the match on a block by Vanessa Moreira and Nina Janjic that gave Jefferson a 26-25 edge. Just like the first set, Indian Hills again led early and often in the second set before being caught late as the Vikings earned a set point after a serve into the net by the Warriors snapped a 24-24 tie.
"We gave them so many extra points, especially in that first set," Michel said. "We got a little bit of the deer-in-the-headlights look about us. We haven't been in this situation lately with the competitiveness of Jefferson. Fortunately, we were able to kick it back into gear."
Olivera erased Jefferson's fourth overall set point opportunity of the match, putting home a kill even after an incredible scramble to save the point by the Vikings. It would be the last set point chance Jefferson would have as Indian Hills (8-5) put the set away when Anja Vranic's dig of a Jefferson hit dropped over the net and right on the line with IHCC up 25-24.
Jefferson spent more time in the third set ahead than in any other set, snapping a 10-10 tie on kill by Kyndia Smith, who finished with 14 winners for the Vikings. Leading 14-13 in the third, Indian Hills began to find another gear executing offensively leading to three kills by Jenna Vallee and two from Oliveira as the Warriors raced to a 2-1 lead in the match.
Jefferson wouldn't fold, taking a slim 16-15 lead in the fourth set with hopes of sending the match into the fifth. Precious Daley responded, scoring four straight points for the Warriors before Oliveira's final run at the net clinched the Warrior victory.
Indian Hills heads to Ellsworth on Sunday afternoon. Match time begins at 1 p.m.
— Scott Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.