Your Prep Sports
WEST BRANCH – With more than two weeks between matches many coaches would be worried about rust building up during the off days.
After seeing her team sit idle for 16 days after a strong start to the season first-year West Branch head coach Trystin Shawver could tell her team was ready to get back on the court.
The Bears proved Shawver right on Tuesday.
Class 2A No. 14 West Branch made big plays late in each set on its way to a 25-23, 25-22, 25-23 sweep of River Valley Conference rival Regina (2-4) in a South Division showdown in West Branch.
“We were ready for a game,” Shawver said. “It’s fun playing each other but when you have an opponent across the net that you are ready to prove that you are better than, it makes a world of difference so they were ready.”
After dropping two matches to ranked opponents to open the season West Branch rattled off five consecutive wins to capture the title at its own tournament on August 29.
Then came the waiting.
A RVC South Division contest set for September 3 against Mid-Prairie was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns for the Goldenhawks.
With the postponement the Bears were stuck with nothing more than intra-squad scrimmages for a span of more than two weeks.
The lack of recent game action didn’t show on Tuesday.
Sophomore Iva Senio had a match-high 12 kills and junior Lexi Klinkkammer added nine kills and three ace serves as West Branch (6-2) stretched its winning streak to six.
“It was two weeks in the month without a game so this was really fun,” Senio said. “We were looking forward to it. Overall, I think we played well. We were all really stoked about it.”
The win was the eighth straight for West Branch over Regina and marked the third consecutive River Valley Conference regular season win for the Bears in the series.
West Branch defeated the Regals in straight sets as part of its perfect 5-0 performance at its home tournament last month.
“There were definitely some first game jitters for all of us tonight,” Klinkkammer said. “I don’t think we played our best and I still think we have a lot to improve upon but overall I think we played well. We got the job done.”
West Branch used a 7-1 run spurred by a Jaclyn Bloem ace block to snap a 15-all tie in the opening set.
As it would all night Regina fought back, closing to as close as 24-23 but Senio closed out the opening-set win with a kill.
“I think our team has a lot of potential,” Senio said. “As long as we put our heads to it I think we can be really good.”
West Branch never trailed in the second set, scoring the first three points while jumping to an early 11-4 lead.
Regina used another late run to get as close as 24-22 before a Klinkkammer kill closed out the set for the Bears.
“It’s definitely a grind when you aren’t playing and just have practice for that long,” Klinkkammer said. “We just had to keep the mindset that we were working toward a game day because it’s definitely difficult not to be playing games but I think our work paid off today.”
West Branch appeared poised to put the match away when it used a 6-1 run to take a 22-17 lead in the third set.
Regina responded with its best stretch of the match, rattling off six straight points and taking a 23-22 lead on an Annie Gahan kill.
“We are still working on cohesiveness as a team,” Shawver said. “Working cohesively as a positive unit is something that we are trying to focus on in practice as well as making those runs for the other team shorter.”
Trailing 23-22 West Branch put together an impressive 3-0 run to close the match.
A Senio kill pulled the Bears even at 23-all and one point later Klinkkammer put the match away with a cross-court rocket.
“The girls have the athleticism to really be the aggressors,” Shawver said. “If you look Klinkk and how she put that ball away, they can do it. Sometimes they need that little nudge of ‘you are a good athlete and you can do this’. That’s all, they have the skill.”
Gahan was stellar for Regina, leading the Regals with nine kills, three ace serves and an ace block.
Freshman Sydney Wagner had four ace serves and senior Lauren Sharpless added five kills for the Regals.
Bloem had six kills and three blocks and Delaynie Luneckas had five kills and an ace block for West Branch which finished with a 34-24 edge in kills.
“We can be so good,” Klinkkammer said. “Up and down the lineup, it’s crazy how much potential our entire program has and it’s really fun to look forward to.”
West Branch 25 25 25
Regina 23 22 23
West Branch (Kills-aces-blocks)
Nicki Henson 0-1-0, Chloe Pence 2-0-0, Iva Senio 12-2-0, Lexi Klinkkammer 9-3-0, Delaynie Luneckas 5-0-1, Jaclyn Bloem 6-0-3, Sophia Kouba 0-2-0, Team 34-8-4.
Assists – Nicki Henson 25, Iva Senio 1
Sydney Wagner 1-4-0, Sarah Martin 2-0-0, Lillian Simpson 4-1-0, Allison Dillon 2-1-0, Lauren Sharpless 5-0-0, Annie Gahan 9-3-1, Hope Simpson 1-1-1, Team 24-10-2.
Assists – Allison Dillon 13, Sydney Wagner 2