Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
WEST BRANCH – West Branch was close to an eye-opening upset for the second time this week in its River Valley Conference opener on Thursday night.
For the second time in three days the Bears couldn’t quite finish what they started.
On Tuesday West Branch watched as Class 2A top-ranked Grundy Center won back-to-back sets to an escape with a win.
Thursday it was Class 3A No. 10 West Liberty that survived a strong West Branch start to stave off an upset attempt.
West Liberty rebounded from an opening set loss to earn a 21-25, 25-22, 26-24, 25-23 win over West Branch (6-3) in a RVC South Division showdown in West Branch.
“I feel like we are right there in every single match,” West Branch senior Fryauf said. “It comes down to the errors that we make and whenever we clean those up I definitely feel like we will be able to push through and get over the hump.”
Fryauf led three West Branch players with at least nine kills with a match-high 19 but it wasn’t enough as West Branch dropped to 0-1 in River Valley Conference play.
Sophomore Martha Pace had five of her 13 kills in the fourth set for West Liberty and freshman Macy Daufeldt added five fourth-set kills as West Liberty improved to 5-1.
“Any conference game right now is going to be a battle,” West Liberty coach Ruben Galvan said. “We were just fortunate enough to settle down a little bit because they came in with a lot of emotion.”
West Branch had its chances on Thursday.
The Bears led 13-10 in the second set and had set point at 24-23 in the third but it was West Liberty that made the plays late in both sets.
“It was two good teams, you are going to see a lot of those all over the conference,” West Branch coach John Walsh said. “There is no easy night in this conference this year.”
Fryauf had six of her match-high 19 kills in a 25-21 West Branch win in the opening set.
West Branch trailed 19-18 before rattling off a 6-0 run that featured a Fryauf kill and an ace block by Jaclyn Bloem.
The Bears led 13-10 in the second set before West Liberty took the lead for good with a 5-0 spurt.
With the match even at a set apiece the tide turned for good late in the third set.
The teams went back and forth before West Branch eventually took a 24-23 lead on a Comet hitting error.
West Liberty responded with three consecutive points on a Daufeldt kill, a Macy Akers ace serve and a West Branch error to secure a 26-24, momentum-building win in the third set.
“I give them credit we could have folded right there after the first game,” Galvan said. “We kept fighting.”
West Liberty built a 13-7 lead in the fourth set and held off a furious West Branch rally.
The Bears pulled to within 24-23 on a Fryauf kill by a cross-court kill by Daufeldt secured the win.
“They played great defense and there were a lot of balls that looked like were going down and they kept them alive and turned a point out of it,” Walsh said. “We made a few too many mistakes late in the game, especially those last three sets.”
Freshman Lexi Klinkkamer had 12 kills and Kaiya Luneckas added eight for West Branch while Mackenzie Heise had five.
Riley Vaughan had a team-high 42 assists and Courtney Jarrett had 19 digs.