STEWARTVILLE — Volleyball can be a game of real shifts and momentum. But right when Kasson-Mantorville figured to have momentum on its side on Tuesday night, the KoMets suddenly went flat.
Of course facing a high-powered team like Stewartville can leave a foe with little margin for error. And that proved to be the case in a battle of state-ranked teams as the host Tigers, ranked second in the state in Class AA, beat No. 5 K-M 25-23, 22-25, 25-12, 25-20 in a well-played and exciting match before a large crowd.
Stewartville had to hold on to win the first game as it led 22-12 at one point. K-M then pulled out an exciting victory in the second set to tie the match. The KoMets appeared to have the advantage going into the third set, but Stewartville dominated and won the most lopsided set of the match.
"I don't think they were as fired up that game," Stewartville coach John Dzubay said. "I don't know what happened to them."
In part, the KoMets started to get wore down by Stewartville's defensive play and aggressive serving. The Tigers had missed some serves earlier in the match, but kept pounding hard-to-handle serves at K-M.
"Our passing game broke down completely," K-M coach Adam VanOort said. "They were just very aggressive with their serving and we couldn't get the ball up to the net to run our offense."
When K-M did run its offense, Stewartville often had a strong defensive response. The Tigers had 78 digs in the match. Senior libero Meghan Schmitz led the way with 19 digs and junior Tara Rogers added 18.
"We put back up a lot of balls they were hitting," Rogers said.
Schmitz made some stellar digs during the game and Dzubay certainly took notice.
"She was digging everything," Dzubay said. "She was all over the place. We kind of compare her on the same level to Cori Kennedy."
Kennedy is an elite defensive player for K-M and the senior also had 19 digs in the match. Kennedy added six ace serves and had some key serving runs for the KoMets.
When Stewartville began to take control in the third set, it used some strong serving and play at the net to pull away.
"We were receiving really well," Rogers said. "We were hitting well and we had to stay positive."
A key for the Tigers is they have more hitting depth at the net. Jenna Willenborg paced Stewartville with 12 kills and four ace blocks. Rogers had 11 kills and Marissa Behrens added 10 kills to go with her 12 digs.
"We knew coming in it was going to be a tough," Rogers said. "But it was a fun match."
The Tigers (10-2, 4-0 Hiawatha Valley League) closed out the match in the fourth set. Willenborg, a 5-10 junior, and the 5-8 Rogers both had a couple of key kills in the middle of the set to put the Tigers up 20-16. K-M trailed 24-20 when Jackie Bleifus had a kill to seal the set and victory.
K-M (8-3, 1-1 HVL) got nine kills each from 5-10 junior Samantha McMillin and 6-foot eighth-grader Peyton Suess.
Kasson-Mantorville:Gabbi Matuska6kills;Taylor Miller12digs;Peyton Suess9kills;Samantha McMillin9kills;Sarah Peterson3kills,13digs;Lilly Braun3kills,32assists;Cori Kennedy19digs,6aces.
Stewartville:Marissa Behrens10kills,12digs;Karissa Kime5kills,7digs,2blocks;Tara Rogers11kills,18digs;Amanda O'Connell3kills,6digs,2aces;Meghan Schmitz19digs;Jackie Bleifus4kills,36assists,10digs,2blocks,3aces;Jenna Willenborg12kills,6digs,4blocks.