By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
WEST BRANCH – Kara Kimm had a simple, one-word message for her team at the season-opening West Branch Invitational – undefeated.
The Regals got the message loud and clear.
Regina won five straight matches in straight sets including a 25-23, 25-18 sweep of West Branch in the title game to win the title at the eight-team invite.
“I told them after the first game, ‘undefeated’,” Kimm explained. “I told them I was going to say that all day long and they just looked at me and I said, ‘I’m serious this is going to be our day’ and boy they were awesome.”
Regina senior Sarah Lehman
Regina and West Branch each won four straight games without dropping a set to reach the title game.
The Regals rallied from an 18-12 deficit to win the opening set and never trailed in a 25-18 win in the second to snap a five-match losing skid to West Branch.
“We knew coming into it that we had put in all the work at practice and we knew we could take on all these teams,” Regina senior Grace Swenning said. “I thought we could do it, we have the mental and the physical toughness to do it this year.”
Regina was impressive all day.
The Regals rolled through pool play defeating Highland (21-12, 21-12), Central City (21-8, 21-12) and Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont (21-15, 21-9) and downed Winfield-Mount Union 25-15, 25-19 in the semifinals.
West Branch was equally impressive downing Lone Tree (21-17, 21-10), Montezuma (21-5, 22-20) and Winfield-Mount Union (21-12, 21-15) in pool play and defeating Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont 25-16, 25-19 in the semifinals.
“We had times where with defense, ball control, owning the net, it was nice to see the way that we can play,” West Branch coach John Walsh said. “Then there were other times like that last match where it didn’t go so well.”
Regina took an early lead in the title match but West Branch used a 5-0 run to take an 8-6 lead.
The Bears stretched the lead to 18-12 with a 6-0 run that featured three kills and an ace block by senior Abby Knoop.
Knoop had six of her team-high eight kills in the opening set.
Regina senior Grace SwenningRegina would rally.
The Regals cut the lead to 19-17 on a Katie Dunn kill and after a Knoop kill made it 20-17 Regina scored three straight points to pull even at 20.
“It was really the first time all day they had to fight so it was nice to see them come out and have some tenacity,” Kimm said. “I thought they might roll over and they came out and it was just a team effort.”
West Branch scored three of the next four points to take a 23-21 lead on a Claire Bridges kill but Regina scored the final for points to win the set.
Sarah Lehman started the 4-0 run with a kill and Swenning had a critical ace serve that broke a 23-23 tie.
Junior Katrina Chambliss provided the set clinching kill to give Regina the win and the momentum.
“I was trying to find an open spot on the court but at the same time just keeping my serve in,” Swenning said of the ace serve. “It definitely gave us a big rush of excitement. I just wanted to keep my focus.”
Regina carried the momentum into the second set.
The Regals scored the first three points and never trailed while completing the sweep.
Lehman had five kills in the second set on her way to a match-high 11 kills while Olivia Wolfe added four kills and Chambliss had three.
“We trusted each other and we knew we could do it,” Lehman said. “We had the confidence that we could win but last year we were a slow starting team and we would always lose the first set. It’s really cool to come here and win 10 sets in a row.”
West Branch got four kills from Bridges to go with eight from Knoop in the title match.
“About everything that could wrong for us did in that last set and we scored 18 points,” Walsh said. “So it’s a testament to the grit and the way the girls handled pressure to stay in it as much as we can but we had our bad match at the wrong time of the day.”
Regina 25 25
West Branch 23 18
Katrina Chambliss 3-0-0, Grace Swenning 1-3-0, Sarah Lehman 11-0-1, Olivia Wolfe 4-0-0, Katie Dunn 2-0-0, Morgan Parthemore 0-1-0, Josie Krueger 0-1-0, Team 21-5-1.
Assists – Grace Swenning 14.
DaLana Kron 0-1-0, Sydney Lamont 1-0-0, Sophie Nopoulos 1-0-0, Abby Knoop 8-0-1, Kaiya Luneckas 2-0-1, Claire Bridges 4-0-0, Abbey Fryauf 2-0-2, Team 18-1-4.
Assists – Riley Vaughan 8, Sophie Nopoulos 4, Claire Bridges 2.