CONRAD — Baxter volleyball coach Joe Morton felt good about his team coming into their Class 1A Region 4 quarterfinal match with No. 13 BCLUW.
The Bolts had three good days of practice but unfortunately ran into a better team on Oct. 28.
The Comets were better at the net and better behind the service line and it resulted in a three-game sweep of Baxter. BCLUW won the match 25-11, 25-16, 25-13. The Comets lost in five sets to Grand View Christian in the regional semifinals.
“I wish I knew what happened. I actually felt pretty good coming in,” Morton said. “We just haven’t been in these kind of games enough. They were nervous I think.”
Baxter’s roster on the floor includes seven seniors, but the Comets have more big-game experience and it showed.
The Comets finished with 37 kills and 12 aces. They missed only three serves and had a kill efficiency of .338.
In comparison, Baxter finished with 22 kills and 15 hitting errors. The Bolts had five service errors and only three aces.
“It was more on us. We tried to be perfect with everything we did instead of just making the simple plays,” Morton said. “We were trying to do too much. We overplayed the game instead of just pass, set and hit.”
Morton said when the Bolts stayed with their gameplan they played with the Comets point for point. Unfortunately, Baxter couldn’t stick with the plan enough.
BCLUW jumped out to a 7-3 lead in the first set. The Bolts couldn’t keep it close as the Comets used several little runs to slowly pull away. The biggest spurt was 6-0 and it put the Comets up 20-8. They clinched the set eight points later and used a 5-0 run to finish it off.
The Bolts (14-12) were most competitive in the second set. Amber Weltha put down three kills early in the frame to give Baxter a lead of 5-4. The Bolts led again at 7-6, but BCLUW took control of the set after that.
The Comets used two 3-0 spurts to push their lead to 16-10. A pair of Weltha kills trimmed the Bolts’ deficit to four. A Kaitlyn Headlee tip at the net kept it at four, but BCLUW went on to win by nine following a 7-1 run.
“We couldn’t get into our gameplan and stay there,” Morton said. “They forced us into some stuff, but the girls were not prepared for this level of match.”
Weltha smashed down back-to-back kills in set three to tie the frame at 2-all. Another kill by Weltha made it 5-all, but BCLUW (22-14) pulled away with a 9-0 run. Sophie Meyer stopped the bleeding briefly and then added another kill a few points later, but the Bolts couldn’t get closer than nine the rest of the way.
Baxter’s senior class includes Weltha, Headlee, Bekka Watt, Sadie Meyer, Rachel Kenney, Abbey Shepley and Mikayla McKnight. Weltha had nine kills, two digs and one ace, Headlee finished with 13 assists, three kills and two digs and Shepley collected four digs.
“We lose a bunch of seniors. But the one thing I can say about them is that they are the biggest group of sweethearts I have ever coached,” Morton said. “They are inclusive to everyone.
“They learned a completely new system with a completely new coaching staff. It’s a whole different level of ideas, and they bought into it and made sure everyone else bought into it, too.”
Morton admitted losing so many seniors will make next year’s team interesting from a numbers standpoint. But Morton brings back his second most productive hitter in Sophie Meyer, his libero in Maddie Pierce, a middle hitter in Hallee Rainsbarger and a handful of younger players as well.
Pierce led the Bolts with 11 digs against the Comets while Sophie Meyer had six kills and five digs and Rainsbarger put down three kills.
“We have a nice group of kids coming back but not a lot of experience as a whole,” Morton said. “They’ll have different roles. We’ll try reload, but they don’t have a lot of game experience.”