Warriors spike way into region semi

OKOBOJI, Iowa – The only time the North Union and Okoboji volleyball teams matched up in the regular season, the Pioneers blanked the Warriors 2-0 for the win.

The Warriors returned the favor on Tuesday night, winning 25-16, 25-18, 25-21 during Class 2A, Region 1 quarterfinal action in Milford, Iowa.

“When we played them the first time, it was a morning game the day after homecoming,” North Union head coach Hilary Elliott said before Tuesday’s match. “So I’m excited to get this game going and see how we can do.”

The Warriors (18-22) advance to face Class 2A, No. 12-ranked Lake Mills (34-5) in the Region 1 semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday in Lake Mills.

The Pioneers finished the season with an 11-18 record.

Lake Mills advanced by beating St. Ansgar, 25-20, 21-25, 25-23, 25-10, on Tuesday in Lake Mills.

“Well that felt good,” Elliott said after the match. “We had film on them and knew that they had made changes since we had last seen them, but we prepared for their No. 18 (Darby Jones) and I thought we did a great job.”

While the Warriors prepared their defense for Jones, the offense scattered attacks all over the Pioneer side of the net.

With the score tied at 8-8 in Game 1, Warrior setter Ashley Olson stepped to the service line to kickstart a six-point rally. Olson sent back-to-back sets out wide to sophomore Sarah Rolling for kills to take the 10-8 lead.

“We have worked on our hitting and shot selection a lot, so when we saw those line shots open up today, we were able to take advantage,” said Elliott. “I think we made a few mistakes, and we weren’t always able to take advantage of some things they gave us, but we played well tonight and that was great to see.”

Then Olson, who distributed 22 set assists, found another target – Aurora Oliver – for a spike down the middle. Oliver, who had six kills, then showed her defensive skills by blocking an Emily Wintz attack to stake the 12-8 advantage.

Rolling, who finished with a match-leading 11 kills, smashed a Pioneer overpass to the floor, before Autumn Boland passed a ball over for a kill to go up 14-8.

Boland, who made 18 digs in the match, and Jordan Guerdet, who tallied a match-leading 22 digs, both backstopped the Warriors to a point during a long rally.

Pioneer setter Kim Naatjes worked the ball from Jones to Wintz to Anna Vos, each taking turns trying to stall the Warrior rally. But with Boland and Guerdet making big digs North Union took the 15-8 lead.

Wintz ended the Warrior run when she smashed a Naatjes assist down to make it 15-9.

Leading 20-13, North Union junior Anna Bauer, who recorded eight kills, ripped an overpass down for the score.

Morgan Rahm, who doled out 12 set assists, sent her serve long before Jones returned the favor to put the Warriors up 22-14.

Bauer smacked an Olson assist down the middle, before Boland sizzled an ace to take the 24-14 edge for North Union.

Wintz tallied another streak ending kill for the Pioneers, but after Rolling missed a rare attack down the line to make it 24-16, Bauer clinched the win for the Warriors smacking a Rahm assist down for the 25-16 win.

In Game 2, the Pioneers tried to fight back. Trailing 6-5, they scored four-straight points to stake a 9-6 lead.

Bauer missed an attack out wide before Vos tipped the ball between Warrior defenders to tie the game at 6-6.

Then a North Union lift and a Rahm attack into the net gave the Pioneers an 8-6 advantage. After a Rolling kill attempt sailed long, Elliott called a timeout to gather the troops.

“We just started making mistakes in that game, and we gave them a chance to get back in it,” said Elliott. “Mistakes are going to happen in volleyball, but we have been able to get out of holes all year. We get into a hole and get ourselves out, and tonight was no different in that game.”

Emily Hagebock, who also recorded eight kills for the Warriors, combined with Bauer to end the Pioneer run, blocking an Abby Taylor spike back to the floor.

The Warriors rallied to win Game 2, 25-18, before clinching the victory with a 25-20 Game 3 win.

In addition to her offensive efforts, Rolling also made 16 digs for the Warriors in the match.

“Now we are going to prepare for Friday,” said Elliott. “I’m sure we’ll play Lake Mills, and I think that if we can control our mistakes and take advantage of theirs, we’ve got a shot.”