West Branch seniors Claire Bridges, DaLana Kron and Abby KnoopBy Ryan Murken Your Prep Sports
WEST BRANCH – Claire Bridges isn’t sure that two weeks ago West Branch would have been able to rally from a two sets to one deficit.
Bridges and her teammates were more than up to that task on Thursday.
West Branch used a late rally to run its winning streak to eight in a row with a 26-24, 21-25, 23-25, 25-20, 16-14 win over Cascade (9-13) in a River Valley Conference cross-divisional matchup at West Branch.
“A couple of weeks ago I don’t know if we would have won that one but tonight we knew we could do it,” Bridges said. “That was probably the first time we really played as a team, trusted each other a lot and just played as one.”
Bridges and fellow senior Abby Knoop combined for 35 kills as West Branch earned its second five-set win over a RVC opponent in the last nine days.
Senior libero DaLana Kron collected 52 digs as West Branch improved to 14-6 on the season with a senior night win.
“It’s homecoming week, it’s senior night and we really wanted to win this,” Knoop said. “We dug deep, we fought hard and we came out with a win.”
Knoop had 11 of her match-high 23 kills in the final two sets as West Branch overcame a two sets to one deficit.
The 5-foot-10 senior was the only Bear to collect a kill in the decisive fifth set, pounding five including the game-winner that slipped just inside the back line.
“We have come so far, we’ve made huge strides and we’ve worked really hard at practice,” Knoop said. “Coach says every day get two percent better and I think we have definitely done that to get to the point we are at today.”
No set was decided by more than five points on Thursday in a back-and-forth match between evenly matched teams.
Two sets, the first and the fifth needed extra points to be decided and West Branch came out on top in both.
West Branch hasn’t lost since in more than three weeks since dropping a RVC South contest to West Liberty on Sept. 13.
“The last three weeks or so I think our players individually and collectively as a team gained confidence that when things aren’t going well we aren’t going to panic and we can work our way out of some situations,” West Branch coach John Walsh. “A month ago I don’t think we win this one.”
West Branch trailed by as many as seven in the first set before rallying for the win.
The Bears used an 8-1 run to turn a 22-16 deficit into a 24-23 lead and then clinched the first set on an ace block by Knoop.
Cascade responded with a 25-21 win in the second set and used an 8-0 run to overcome a 21-16 deficit to win the third set 25-23.
West Branch bounced back with a 25-20 win in the fourth.
The Bears broke a 15-all tie with a 6-1 run and never let Cascade get closer than three points the rest of the way.
“We got back there in the locker room and it wasn’t all frowny faces,” Bridges said. “We were talking and getting back in the right mindset and we came out and played like we visualized ourselves playing. It was a good turnaround.”
West Branch scored the first five points of the fifth set fueled by a Knoop kill and back-to-back ace serves from Bridges.
Cascade eventually pulled even at 14-14 on a West Branch error but the Bears scored the final two points, the game winner coming on a deep Knoop kill.
West Branch finished with a 49-44 edge in kills with Knoop and Bridges accounting for 35.
“We’ve really focused the last couple of weeks on playing strong at the net,” Walsh said. “We did it just well enough tonight to get a W.”
Cascade 24 25 25 20 14
West Branch 26 21 23 25 16
Courtney Jarrett 0-1-0, DaLana Kron 0-1-0, Sydney Lamont 1-0-0, Abbey Frauf 5-0-1, Riley Vaughan 1-0-0, Abby Knoop 23-0-1, Sophie Nopoulos 4-1-0, Kaiya Luneckas 3-0-1, Claire Bridges 12-3-0, Team 49-6-3.
Assists – Sophie Nopoulos 17, Riley Vaughan 12, Sydney Lamont 1, Abby Knoop 1.
Annie Meyer 5-0-0, Kylie Knepper 6-0-2, Lisa Tucker 10-0-0, Rachel Trumm 9-0-2, Anna Hunt 0-2-0, Laura Kremer 0-1-0, Abbie Ruggeberg 10-0-1, Shannon Rogers 4-0-2, Team 44-3-7.
Assists – Anna Hunt 25, Brittany Koppes 12, Shannon Rogers 1, Kylie Knepper 1.