URBANDALE — The current stretch of tournaments the Newton volleyball team is in the middle of was designed for confidence-building and momentum-grabbing.
It would be fair to say that both of those things were done on Thursday.
The Cardinals (14-8, 0-3 Little Hawkeye Conference) picked up three sweeps, defeating Van Meter, Iowa Christian Academy and host Des Moines Christian by scores of 2-0 each to extend their winning streak to six matches after a tough opening stretch to the conference schedule.
"They're still confidence building and we're still trying to build off of last week's tournament," Newton coach Kim Florke said. "So right now, we'll take them any way we can get them."
Newton's first opponent of the day was Van Meter, which gave the Cards a little bit of trouble in the first set. Despite an early lead for the Cards, the Bulldogs came back to tie things at 9-9 before a few Cardinal runs widened the gap and eventually put the set away at 21-14.
The second set was basically target practice for junior Holly Vander Pol, who helped the Cards out to an impressive 14-0 start from the service line. Van Meter managed a few points here and there at the end of the set, but Newton earned the sweep with a 21-5 second-set score.
"I don't remember the last time I've seen anyone string that many together — even 10," Florke said of Vander Pol's serves. "We've been having problems putting two together, so that was fun to see them relax, just have Holly serve and play some defense."
Going into their second match against Iowa Christian Academy (2-8), Florke wanted the team to practice its short serving. That practice paid off in the first game as a 9-0 lead was built up before the Blazers could get on the board. Although Newton took the first set easily at 21-5, it had some trouble finding a rhythm in the second set before pulling away. At one point, Newton led just 10-6 before recovering to win 21-7.
"You've got to be ready for anything because it was a team that we had no idea what they were going to do," Florke said. "I thought our kids really held their own, stayed focused and did what they needed to do."
The third and final match of the evening came against Des Moines Christian, which also swept its first two matches and entered the day with a 20-4 record. The teams went point-for-point before the Cards put some distance in with a few kills and ace from junior Michaela Bleeker. They then maintained a five-point lead through the end of the set to take it 21-16 and set themselves up for a complete sweep.
Newton's final set of the day wouldn't be easy, however, as the Lions came out swinging and built up a 14-10 lead to force a Cardinal timeout. Things seemed to be sorted out in the timeout though, and the Cards ripped off six of the next eight points to tie things up at 16-16.
The Cards got a break when a Lion kill was wiped out by a net violation, but took advantage with a kill from junior Amber Karsten before a lift gave the Cards the victory. Being able to hold on for the victory after the initial comeback was something Florke had been waiting to see all season, and the Cards delivered on it in a big way.
"I think that's huge because we usually lose those," Florke said. "What I told them was a few weeks ago they weren't willing to fight for each other, and now they are. They care about each other, they're playing well together and they're thinking volleyball. They've finally come together and that's what we've been looking for."
One last tournament awaits this weekend, but the Cardinals have the luxury of playing it at home. The field will offer up a few more challenges than Thursday as Newton will see Des Moines North, Pella and Carlisle in pool play with the hopes of meeting with Class 4A No. 3 Harlan in the championship match.