On a big night for Newton High volleyball, Newton High’s 2017 team found itself in unchartered waters for the season. The Cardinals and the visiting Grinnell Tigers battled to a fifth set to decide their Little Hawkeye Conference match.
Newton rallied from a first-set loss to win the next two sets, but Grinnell pulled out a 25-23 decision in the fourth set to force a fifth set. The Tigers won the LHC contest 25-16, 22-25, 24-26, 25-23, 15-9.
“We’re getting better communicating with each other and understanding what we’re doing on the court,” senior middle blocker and hitter Alexis Hoffman said following the match. “We’ve improved so much from the beginning of the season.”
Hoffman said she believed the Cardinals were getting to the point where they can do great things when they are in the right mindset. She said the players are working on developing the mental toughness they need to finish matches with a victory.
Newton honored its inaugural volleyball team from 1987 prior to the varsity match Tuesday. A group of the players and a two coaches were in attendance to celebrate 30 years of Cardinal volleyball.
The Cardinals opened the varsity match on a five-point service run by Audrey Lucas. Rachel Berkland and Kate Callaghan helped score points at the net. Grinnell clawed its way back to an 8-8 tie then pulled ahead.
Newton found itself down 20-10 but held off the Tigers for a bit longer before falling 25-16. The next three sets were nip-and-tuck between the Cardinals and Tigers.
“Losing in five is always tough. That fifth set comes down to mental toughness,” Newton head coach Ashley Carter said. “We did a lot of great things tonight; the girls were hustling and being aggressive. We are trending in the right direction and showing a lot of improvement.”
The Cardinals pushed out to a 7-4 lead in the second set then fell behind 19-18. Harlie Durr served up two aces for Newton and the teams were locked at 20-all. It took a little more work for the Cardinals to claim a 25-22 victory.
With Callaghan serving, Berkland had back-to-back kills — second a tape-runner which fell on Grinnell’s side of the net — for a 7-3 lead in the third set. There was a run of sideouts by the teams resulting in a 24-24 deadlock.
Lucas went to the service line for Newton. Hoffman’s tip at the net provided the first point and Newton got the next one for a 26-24 win and a 2-1 lead.
Neither team had serving runs in the fourth set. It was point-for-point on sideouts much of the going, but the Tigers edged out in front and claimed the 25-23 win.
Newton had a 3-1 lead in the fifth set, in which teams play to 15 or a win by two points, then Grinnell’s Megan Doty rattled off six straight service points. The Cardinals kept fighting but could not catch the Tigers.
At the service line, Lucas finished with 14 points served and three service aces. Callaghan served up 11 points and one ace serve. Durr had eight points and two aces, and Hoffman served seven points and had one ace.
Carter Lee served for three points and Berkland had one point served. Lee was credited with 17 digs followed by Callaghan and Durr with 14 digs apiece. Berkland made 10 digs, Hoffman had four digs, and Lucy Lilienthal and Kam Arguella each made one dig.
Leading the net attack for Newton were Lucas with 11 kills and one solo block and Berkland with 10 kills. Hoffman delivered nine kills, put up two solo blocks and had one assisted block. Madison Bleeker had eight kills and an assisted block.
Callaghan was credited with 37 set assists and five kills at the net. Lilienthal had three kills and five set assists.
Newton dropped to 2-6 overall and 0-3 in LHC play. Grinnell improved to 5-3 and 2-1.
The Cardinal varsity plays in a tournament starting at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Des Moines Christian.
Newton’s junior varsity recorded a 25-11, 25-6 win over Grinnell. Arguello set the tone of the match for Newton by serving eight straight points in the opening set.
The Newton freshmen beat Grinnell 25-14, 16-25, 15-7. As a team, the Cardinals were 42-of-49 serving with nine service aces and had nine kills.
“I was very pleased with the effort tonight,” Newton freshman coach Eric VanderVelden said. “The girls came ready to play. We switched our serve receive up at Monday’s practice and it was outstanding. Our passing was much improved.”
Newton’s freshmen play in Saturday’s Des Moines East freshman tournament. Matches begin at 9 a.m.
Contact Jocelyn Sheets at 641-792-3121 ext. 6535 or email@example.com