BAXTER — Baxter volleyball coach Scott Ranck remembers watching Don Bosco’s junior varsity team when it faced the Bolts last season.
Ranck had a feeling those JV players would give the Dons a very competitive varsity team this season.
Unfortunately for Ranck, he got to see the latest Don Bosco varsity squad, and the Dons’ depth and power hitting at the net were too much for Baxter to handle during a three-set sweep on Sept. 6. Don Bosco won the match 25-13, 25-14, 25-14.
The Bolts welcomed back senior setter Sydney Schmidt, but the home team never got their footing against an Iowa Star Conference North Division team. The Dons played faster and had two much firepower at the net.
“They are a good team. They kept pounding it at us, and they are going so much faster than we are used to seeing,” Ranck said. “We are not used to that speed. We couldn’t get there to close out blocks and couldn’t get in the right spots in the back row. They made us uncomfortable.”
The only lead the Bolts (3-3) held in the opening set came at 2-1. The set was tied twice before Don Bosco (7-4) slowly pulled away. The Dons turned a 7-5 lead into a 21-10 advantage and then eventually won by 12.
The Bolts led 3-1 and 4-2 in the second set.
Don Bosco rallied to take a lead but junior Amber Weltha got a block and junior Kaitlyn Headlee served up an to cut Baxter’s lead to 7-6.
The Dons then rolled off nine straight points to go up 16-6. Another 6-0 made it 21-9, and Don Bosco went up 2-0 a few points later.
“We didn’t give up. There have been times before when we are in this situation, and they kind of just try to get it over with,” Ranck said. “But I didn’t see that tonight.”
One of Don Bosco’s heavy hitters injured Headlee when an attack shot bounced off the junior’s head in the middle of the second set. That’s when Schmidt entered the floor for the first time this season.
“I wanted to get Sydney into the game a little bit tonight anyway so that seemed like a good time to do it,” Ranck said. “She was rusty, but she did all right. We’ll get the rust off soon.”
Schmidt finished the second set as Baxter’s setter and then played the entire third set as Headlee missed the remainder of the match with the injury.
The Bolts still couldn’t find their way in the third set. They fell behind 7-1 early. Don Bosco slowly pulled away and a 5-0 run made it 22-11.
A kill by Weltha, an ace by sophomore Sophie Meyer and a hitting error by the Dons closed the gap to 22-14, but the visitors completed the sweep with three consecutive points.
Ranck said he wants his team to get back to playing faster. Don Bosco’s pace was definitely the biggest factor in the match Thursday.
“We talked at the beginning of the season about wanting to play faster this year,” Ranck said. “We started out that way earlier in the year but have slowed way down recently. We are becoming predictable in what we are doing. We need to fix that.”
Baxter also needs to be more consistent from behind the service line. Ranck said his team missed around five serves in the first set and was 36-of-43 overall in the match.
“The first set we missed five serves. We can’t do that to start the match,” Ranck said.
Meyer finished with four kills, six digs and three aces. Weltha added four kills, three digs, two blocks and was 9-of-9 in serves.
Junior Bekka Watt tallied four kills, Headlee had six assists, Schmidt delivered four assists and sophomore Maddie Pierce finished with eight digs. Junior Abbey Shepley totaled four digs.
The Bolts played in the Madrid quadrangular on Sept. 10. Baxter plays North Tama at 7:15 p.m. on Sept. 18 in Traer.