COLFAX — Colfax-Mingo volleyball coach Michelle Grant thought her Tigerhawk squad came into Thursday night’s South Iowa Cedar League matchup with Belle Plaine with a little apprehension.
Belle Plaine junior Kenzie Mantz entered the match with the most kills in the conference and third most in Class 2A. She’s tall. She’s long. And she hits the ball extremely hard almost every time she touches it.
The Iowa State recruit was on her game early against the Tigerhawks, and the quick start by Belle Plaine led the Plainsmen to a road win.
Colfax-Mingo weathered Belle Plaine’s hot start but still came up on the short end of scoreboard as the Plainsmen won 25-10, 28-26, 17-25, 25-15, spoiling the Tigerhawks’ Senior Night.
“We got scared of the big girl early and just got too far behind,” Grant said.
The match featured the two top hitters in the SICL. Mantz came into the match with 318 kills, and Colfax-Mingo senior Ries Wilson entered with 225. Their kills per set number is much closer at 5.13 for Mantz and 4.38 for Wilson.
Wilson recorded a double-double on the night with 16 kills and 22 digs, but Mantz’s team came out on top.
“This team is finally starting to understand that Ries needs to be able to put the team on her back and just do her thing,” Grant said. “And Ries is starting to say ‘you’re coming with me guys.’ She did that tonight, but we dug ourselves too big of a hole.”
The Tigerhawks fell behind 20-2 in the opening set. They got a little closer when Mantz went to the back row, but the Plainsmen junior finished with eight kills in the set to give her team a 1-0 lead.
Grant made an adjustment in the second set, putting Wilson in the front row to start the game. The Tigerhawks played much better and nearly pulled off the win.
“I didn’t like our rotation,” Grant said. “We tried to do something to adjust to Kenzie Mantz, and it didn’t work. We had Ries starting in the front row in the second set. If what we planned doesn’t work, it’s best to just put them both in the front row together and let them duke it out.”
The Tigerhawks jumped out to a 5-1 lead, but the set was tied five times before Mantz went back to work. She put down three kills in a span of four points to give Belle Plaine a three-point advantage.
Wilson came back with a kill of her own and two net violations evened the set. Freshman Chelsey Temple gave the Tigerhawks a 21-20 lead, and Colfax-Mingo led 24-23 at one point.
After a timeout, Belle Plaine (16-8 overall, 5-2 in the SICL) scored two straight to take a one-point lead. Wilson tied it with another kill. The set was tied again at 26-all after a service error by the visitors. Belle Plaine scored the final two points to go up 2-0 in the match.
“I think it took a little bit of time to adjust to that different lineup in game two, but I thought we were going to get away with it,” Grant said. “We almost pulled it out.”
Colfax-Mingo dominated the third set after claiming a lead at 5-4. Wilson kept them in front, and Temple gave the Tigerhawks a lift, too.
After Mantz pulled the Plainsmen within 14-12, Wilson had back-to-back-to-back kills and junior Chelsea Russell served up an ace to make it 18-12. The Tigerhawks (9-11, 3-4) went on to win by eight and avoided the sweep.
Russell was 16-for-16 in serves with two aces, and she also had 13 digs. Temple recorded a career-high 10 kills one match after being moved to outside hitter opposite of Wilson.
“We made the decision Monday to move (Temple) outside, and I was scared to do that at first,” Grant said. “She played well Monday. Tonight, she was an animal and exceeded expectations. That is the kind of effort I want from the player opposite of (Wilson).”
Colfax-Mingo pushed its momentum into game four, but it didn’t last long. The Tigerhawks led 8-5 after a Temple kill. From that point on, Belle Plaine outscored the hosts 20-7 to win by 10.
Mantz had five kills in the final set and finished with 28 in the match.
Senior Megan Earles finished with 25 assists and nine digs, and she was 13-of-13 in serves. Wilson was 14-of-15 in serves with three aces.
The Tigerhawks missed only two serves on the night. Temple was 12-of-12 with one ace, junior Colbee Cunningham was 9-of-9 and junior Braedynn Rawlins finished 10-of-11.
Colfax-Mingo plays at 7 p.m. Monday in Sigourney. The Tigerhawks open the SICL tournament against Keota at 5 p.m. Tuesday in Marengo.