Last year’s heartbreak was this year’s revenge.
It looked all too familiar at first. Forest City built a 2-0 lead then lost the third set to move to 2-1. For much of the fourth set, Clarion-Goldfield-Dows was gearing up for a fifth, but the Indians would rally from behind to cap off a four-set victory 25-20, 25-16, 19-25, 25-23.
Forest City started off the first set with a few errors, but rallied from a 4-7 deficit to tie it up 8-8. The Indians would build a lead on a four-point run to make it 12-8. The Cowgirls would rally three points, but the Indians would extend the lead on a five-point run to make it 16-11.
Senior Hannah Anderson anchored the back row on serve-receive and defense, enabling a versatile offense, including junior Emma Segerstrom’s quicks and slides. Anderson would reach a double-double performance on the night with 12 kills and 12 digs.
“Overall as a senior, she’s a leader,” head coach Lacy Jerome said. “She had her ups and downs, but she found her way to come back. And if she wasn’t passing balls, she found her way to swing OK, and if she wasn’t swinging well, she was still playing good defense.”
The Cowgirls would rally back late in the set, but junior Kelsey Koch would finish it off with a sharp-cross kill out of middle to prevent further comeback 25-20.
The second set saw more errors on the Cowgirls’ side. The Indians wouldn’t waste any points, extending a seven-point lead 17-10. Koch found comfort with a line-hitting scheme and Holland slammed around the blocks at middle. The Indians racked up three aces by Holland, Anderson and Miller to seal a definite victory 25-16.
But the first two sets looked like a warmup for the Cowgirls as they piled on the kills in the third. Forest City struggled to find its rhythm, falling to a 19-12 deficit. The Indians rallied back and Anderson would get creative at the front with a sharp cross push at 17-21. Koch followed up with a cross-game, but the Cowgirls would maintain the lead 25-19.
“My initial thoughts were oh my gosh, how did we play so good the first two sets and then totally not be able to finish?” Jerome said. “But also proud of our girls because we got down again like we did against Algona, but they found a way to make it work ... so excited for that momentum.”
Forest City fell to a 17-12 lead in the fourth, a familiar fifth set on the rise. But a block by Koch and Segerstrom on the Cowgirls’ top hitter, Morgan Middleton, restored energy. Koch took control from the back row with an ace and the Cowgirls called a timeout at 17-15. Forest City would rally to force mistakes on the other side and pile on a pair of blocks to bring within one 21-20. The Indians took the lead 24-22 and Koch would have the final say with a deep-cross kill to close out the victory 25-22.
Koch finished the night with 13 kills, including three set-points, and a team-high of three blocks
“Everybody is starting to trust Kelsey a little bit more,” Jerome said. “The ball seems to go to her every set point at the end of our sets. I just think she does a good job. She is above the block or finds a way to get around or through the blocks, so just able to see the court well and score somehow.”
Senior setter Brea Dillavou had 34 assists and the team had a total of 10 aces, six coming from Holland and senior Callie McQuown. Holland also finished the night with nine kills and 10 digs.
The Indians will play Osage next Monday in a Class 3A regional final.
“Consistency, just being able to not get down right away and when you do get a lead just be able to keep it,” Jerome said. “Keep our errors to a minimum and keep them from getting the ball as much. We need to block a little bit more as well.”