THE GOLD IS COMING HOME
WEBSTER CITY – At one point during the third set Webster City head coach Jess Howard angrily called for a timeout. She huddled her team together for less than 10 seconds, but her terse words were easy to decipher.
Get. Your. Act. Together.
It took a few minutes, but eventually her players heeded her advice and the end result was a celebration fit for champions.
Eighth-ranked (Class 4A) Webster City dominated early, took a set off mentally and then returned to normal to dispose of Clear Lake in four sets, 25-8, 25-15, 22-25, 25-11 last night inside the WCHS gymnasium.
The victory assured the Lynx (24-9, 8-1) of no worse than a share of the North Central Conference championship – their second in the last three years. No. 9-ranked (3A) Iowa Falls-Alden can claim a piece of the crown on Thursday with a victory over Hampton-Dumont in its final league tussle.
But Howard and her players weren’t thinking about the Cadets after last night’s match. They simply wanted to enjoy their moment.
“It’s a testament to how much the girls have put into the program and how much they’ve bought into it,” she said. “The work they’ve put in during the offseason and just playing together as a team have been really important.”
Seniors Kaylee Schnathorst, Morgan Gourley and Ashley Price were recognized prior to the start of the bout. All three were contributors to the 2011 NCC title and all three again played pivotal roles in bringing the gold back home.
Schnathorst delivered a match-high 20 kills, six coming in the fourth and final set. Clear Lake (8-25, 3-6) watched its momentum dissolve under her outside attack early in the closing stanza as she smacked five kills in the first six points to stake the Lynx to a commanding 5-1 lead.
“She was making the most of each set at the beginning of that (set),” Howard said of Schnathorst’s barrage.
Schnathorst collected her 300th kill of the season early in the second set and twisted her ankle in the process, but it didn’t stop her from delivering five in the set.
Gourley shelled out 11 kills and added to her team-leading dig total with 16, two more than Schnathorst.
Price distributed 24 assists from her setter position and eclipsed 400 assists on the season in the process. Gianna Gourley doled out 17.
Already the 4A leader in solo blocks, Hannah Myers added four more to give her 79 on the season. She entered the night tied for third in the state regardless of class.
WCHS trailed for just one point in the opening two sets. Behind three kills each from Schnathorst, Gourley and Molly Gilbert in the first set, WCHS notched nine of the first 10 points and sailed to the quick win.
An early 5-0 advantage in Set No. 2 put the Lions in backpedal mode again and the Lynx eventually built their cushion to 11-3 on back-to-back aces from Schnathorst. Clear Lake never got closer than five points the remainder of the way.
But then something happened in the third set and it caused Howard to glare at her players throughout. A 5-0 Lions’ run gave them a 15-11 advantage and they never trailed again. A kill, followed by a solo snuff from Morgan Gourley pulled WCHS within 23-22, but Clear Lake answered with consecutive points to keep the match alive.
“You’ve got to stay focused throughout and you’ve got to play to your level at all times,” Howard said. “(The girls) went into (the third set) thinking it was going to be easy and Clear Lake started making some defensive plays. It was a letdown on our part, but it was great for the girls to come back and take control of the fourth (set) right away.”
Gilbert added nine kills and Myers finished with seven. Libero Carly Jacobson chipped in seven digs and a pair of service aces.
WCHS will now have more than a week to rest before it will begin regional play against either Perry or Boone on Thursday, Oct. 31. The match will take place inside the WCHS gymnasium at 7 p.m.