Wilton Rallies Past West Branch in Five-Set Thriller

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Photo by Norv Coblentz

Ryan Murken

Your Prep Sports

WILTON – West Branch had Wilton down in Thursday’s regional semifinal.

Down to two sets to none, down seven in the third set and eventually down to its final three points.

Wilton was down but West Branch couldn’t quite close it out.

Class 2A No. 11 Wilton trailed 22-15 in the third set before mounting a furious rally that turned into an improbable 21-25, 14-25, 26-24, 25-16, 15-11 win over West Branch in a Region 7 semifinal in Wilton.

“When you play a good team, when you have them down you can’t let them back up,” West Branch coach John Walsh said. “We got away from the things we were doing early and then the momentum shifted.”  

Wilton (35-4) got 22 kills from senior Aubrey Putman and 17 more from senior middle Emily Lange to advance to the Region 7 title game on Monday against top-ranked Grundy Center (40-3) at Cedar Rapids Xavier.

West Branch dominated the first two sets and was three points from a sweep before momentum swung to the Wilton side for the first time all match.

The Bears were never able to fully regain the momentum and finished the season 24-15 with its first loss in six matches.

“We had the momentum and once Wilton got that third set and things started clicking for them you could just see their energy picked up,” Walsh said. “It’s one of the facets of the game and it just didn’t go our way tonight.”

West Branch took control early in what turned out to truly be a tale of two distinctly different matches.

Th Bears used a 10-1 run in the opening set to turn a 11-7 deficit into a 17-12 lead and never let Wilton get closer than three points the rest of the way.

Senior libero Courtney Jarrett had a pair of ace serves as West Branch rattled off seven straight points to end the 10-1 spurt.

West Branch never let up in the second set dominating from start to finish in a 25-14 win.

“We didn’t expect the success we had the first two sets,” Walsh said. “We knew it was going to be a battle.”  

West Branch appeared on its way to a sweep when it took a 19-11 lead early in the third set and led 22-15 following an Abbey Fryauf kill.

That is when the momentum shifted.

Wilton rattled off seven consecutive points fueled by three kills and a block by Lange to even the score at 22.

West Branch had leads at 23-22 and 24-23 but Wilton scored the final three points on kills by Lange, Ella Caffery and Putman.

“At that time you just try to go back to fundamentals and you just say play with your heart and just let it go,” Wilton coach Brenda Grunder said. “Obviously couldn’t be more proud of how they came back.

Wilton never trailed in a 25-16 win in the fourth set and overcame an early 6-3 deficit in the fifth set with a 6-1 run.

West Branch tied the score at 10-all on a Fryauff kill but the Beavers ended the match on a 5-1 run that featured back-to-back kills by Putman to end the match.

“That fifth set they executed better than we did,” Walsh said. “That’s what it came down to.”

Fryauf had a match-high 23 kills for West Branch while Lexi Klinkkhammer added 11 kills and Kaiya Luneckas had eight kills and five ace blocks.

“They hit hard, they are a big swinging team,” Grunder said. “Credit to them they swung all night long.”

Wilton              21  14  26  25  15

West Branch   25  25  24  16  11

Wilton

(Kills-aces-blocks)

Kelsey Drake 2-2-0, Taylor Garvin 7-0-0, Kortney Drake 6-2-0, Ella Caffery 3-1-2, Alexa Garvin 1-0-0, Emily Lange 17-0-3, Aubrey Putman 22-3-0, Team 58-8-5.

Assists – Ella Caffery 43, Kortney Drake 2

West Branch

(Kills-aces-blocks)

Courtney Jarrett 0-3-0, Abbey Fryauf 23-0-1, Lexi Klinkkhammer 11-0-0, Riley Vaughan 2-0-0, Kaiya Luneckas 8-0-5, Jaclyn Bloem 2-0-3, Mackenzie Heise 7-0-1, Team 53-3-10.

Assists – Riley Vaughan 38