INSIDE TRACK: No. 14 Cadets edge No. 10 Lynx, take NCC lead

IOWA FALLS – Kaylee Schnathorst spent less than five minutes inside the locker room following last night’s heated North Central Conference volleyball battle.

The scowl on the Webster City senior’s face as she trudged through the gymnasium spoke a thousand words.

This one hurt. This one hurt bad.

With two evenly matched teams trading points for much of the intense two-hour match, it was 14th-ranked (Class 3A) Iowa Falls-Alden that rode its enthusiastic crowd, not to mention a few timely kills at critical points in a 3-1 victory, 25-23, 19-25, 25-23, 25-23.

The Cadets (10-3, 4-0 NCC) – winners of nine consecutive matches dating back to Sept. 7 – took over sole possession of the conference lead. They are in prime position to win a second straight championship after early season wins over contenders Algona and now 10th-ranked (4A) Webster City (17-5, 2-1 NCC).

“We’ve just got to win out now and hope someone can beat them,” WCHS head coach Jess Howard said afterwards as the celebration continued around her. “We’ve just got to continue to work on our game and try to improve.”

There were 25 ties and 13 lead changes during the match, including 16 and six in the opening set alone. The opener was knotted up for the final time at 18 before the Cadets rattled off back-to-back points and they upped their late advantage to as many as three.

Back-to-back slams by junior Kelsey Redmond put IF-A up 20-18, and two points later she put down a solo block to extend the cushion. Kayla Meyer finished the set off with a kill from the middle of the floor.

Redmond was a problem for the Lynx all night. She was limited when WCHS got a hand on her attacks, otherwise it was lights out.

“She definitely is a player you have to get a hand on the ball,” Howard said of Redmond. “When she gets a hold of it there’s not much you can do.”

WCHS dropped the opening three points of Set No. 2 before coming to life and taking command. Kaylee Schnathorst blasted four of her team-high 16 kills during the set, as the Lynx took the lead for good at 7-6.

Hannah Myers also played a big part in the set win; she ripped back-to-back kills to give WCHS its first lead and followed it up with one of her four blocks.

Schnathorst’s fourth kill of the stanza – a shot from the outside and down the line – evened the match at 1-1.

WCHS scored the initial five points of the third set and eventually led 12-9 before the Cadets came roaring back.

The Lynx final lead of the set came at 20-19; IF-A then scored the next two points and never trailed again.

Giving away the third set proved to be the Lynx undoing, as they fell behind by as many as seven points early in the final set.

“It hurts to lose a lead at any time, but credit them to be able to come back like that,” Howard said.

It was 14-7 in the Cadets’ favor when WCHS mounted its fourth-set rally, and the Lynx eventually tied it at 17 and then took the lead on a kill from Myers.

But IF-A had its own answer with four consecutive points and from there it was only a matter of time. Fittingly enough, it was Redmond who brought the student section onto the floor with a block on the final point of the match.

Morgan Gourley and Myers both lashed 11 kills in the loss; Gourley hit a team-best .296 and WCHS hit a respectable .200 as a team.

Setters Ashley Price (25) and Gianna Gourley (22) combined to distribute 47 assists.

Schnathorst led the way defensively with 20 digs, four more than Morgan Gourley (16) and seven more than Molly Gilbert (13).