Third-set Flips Momentum as West Branch Downs Regina in River Valley Conference Showdown

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Photo by Norv Coblentz

Ryan Murken

Your Prep Sports

IOWA CITY – Even with all his years of coaching experience John Walsh admits he has a hard time getting a feel for when his West Branch team is on the verge of a scoring run.

Walsh might not know when a run is coming but he can certainly tell when one arrives at the perfect time.

That was the case for West Branch in its annual match with River Valley Conference rival Regina on Tuesday.

West Branch flipped the momentum with a 10-3 run to close the third set on its way to a 25-21, 15-25, 25-23, 25-17 win over Regina in Iowa City.

“I can’t tell when a run is coming and that’s what I always tell them, ‘you never know so the next point you’ve got to go all out because that could be the one that starts a run like that,” Walsh said. “Tonight, I think that run in the third set was the turning point for us.”

Freshman Lexi Klinkkamer had four of her team-high 15 kills during the 10-3 third-set run that rallied West Branch complete a rally from seven points down.

Abbey Fryauf added 14 kills and Kaiya Luneckas had nine as West Branch improved to 12-5 on the season and 1-3 in RVC South play with its sixth consecutive win.

“This is our first conference win and I think it was really important,” Fryauf said. “My sophomore year we struggled early on and then we went to the Lisbon tournament and we turned it around and we just won the Lisbon tournament on Saturday and I feel like this is our turnaround point.”

If Tuesday’s rivalry win does prove to be a turning point for West Branch this season the Bears will point to the third set as the beginning.

Regina (5-12, 1-3 RVC) bounced back from an opening-set loss with a resounding 25-15 win in the second set and built a 11-4 lead early in the third.

The Regals led 16-11 in the third set following back-to-back kills by senior standout Jaedynn Evans and still led 20-15 following a pair of Bear hitting errors.

“Everyone was flowing and meshing well together,” Evans said. “I think everyone was giving 100 percent effort.”

The next point, a kill by Fryauf, ignited a West Branch rally that gave the Bears an emotional boost they would never give up.

“We were trying to stay positive because it can be hard at that point when you are down,” Fryauf said. “The main thing for us was keeping our communication up because if we do that we are always going to play better. We just kept that mindset of nothing drops and just kept trying to push through.

Klinkkammer followed with back-to-back kills to cut the lead to 20-18 and West Branch got as close as 21-20 on consecutive kills by Klinkkamer and Luneckas.

Regina took a 22-20 lead on a back row kill by Evans but West Branch scored the next four points, taking its first lead of the set at 23-22 on a Riley Vaughan ace serve.

“We were just trying to stay positive and when we got the momentum I think we all started to play with more confidence,” Klinkkamer said. “We got on a roll.”
Regina led 3-1 early in the fourth set but Fryauf keyed a 4-0 spurt with a kill and an ace block and West Branch never trailed again.

“We were down big early in the third and just kept battling,” Walsh said. “I think that made the difference for us especially going into the fourth set because then we started real strong in the fourth set and made them play catchup instead of us”

Klinkkammer and Fryauf combined for nine kills in the opening two sets but each had 10 in the final two as West Branch pulled away.

Fryauf had six kills in the fourth set and Klinkkamer had the match-clincher as West Branch snapped a three-match RVC losing skid.

“I was just waiting for the sets and I had the right mindset,” Klinkkamer said. “I got more confident as the match went on.”

Evans and senior Ellie VanLandschoot kept Regina in the match, combining for 25 of the Regals’ 34 kills.

VanLandschoot had an ace serve and Evans four ace blocks for the Regals.

“Ellie was on point tonight and it was awesome to see her swinging well,” Regina coach Jordyn Akers said. “She came out swinging well and closing our block and she did exactly what we needed her to do tonight.

Regina             21  25  23  17

West Branch  25  15  25  25

Regina

(Kills-aces-blocks)

Nola Murhammer 0-1-0, Lillian Simpson 1-0-0, Ellie VanLandschoot 7-1-0, Grace Sharpless 0-2-0, Jaedynn Evans 18-0-4, Kennedy Wallace 2-1-0, Josie Krueger 2-0-1, Annie Gahan 4-0-0, Team 34-5-5.

Assists – Kennedy Wallace 25

West Branch

(Kills-aces-blocks)

Nicki Henson 0-1-0, Abbey Fryauf 14-0-1, Lexi Klinkkamer 15-3-0, Riley Vaughan 0-2-0, Dalanie Luneckas 1-0-0, Kaiya Luneckas 9-0-4, Kaclyn Bloem 0-2-0, Mackenzie Heise 5-0-0, Team 44-8-5.

Assists – Riley Vaughan 30, Nicki Henson 4, Courtney Jarrett 2

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