ALLEMAN - A big gut check in the fourth set turned the tide for North Polk against Roland-Story in a pivotal Heart of Iowa Conference match Oct. 11 at Alleman.
The Comets rallied from a 2-1 deficit to stun the Norse in five sets and earn a piece of first place in the final HOIC standings.
“We just really worked together as a team,” North Polk senior outside hitter Nora Aschoff said. “That was the most important part — communication. We believed in each other and that we could do it together. We really fought back and pulled through.”
After winning the opening set, 25-20, North Polk suffered back-to-back losses by scores of 27-25 and 25-20. The Comets let a 24-20 lead and a 2-0 advantage in the match slip away in the second set, and appeared to have folded up their tent after losing the third set.
But the Comets didn’t hang their heads. They came back with better communication and execution in the fourth set to pull off a 25-20 victory, capped by a Bella Rademacher kill.
That forced a rally game, where Roland-Story jumped out to an 8-5 lead. North Polk eventually tied the score at 9-9 on a Liz Turk kill, and an Aschoff kill helped the Comets move in front, 12-10.
Roland-Story came back with three consecutive points, and a tip by MaKayla Geise had the Norse up 14-13 late in the match. But North Polk continued to display great resiliency under pressure, taking advantage of two Roland-Story errors to move back in front, 15-14.
On the next North Polk serve, middle hitter Jaedon Murphy stepped up huge, getting a clutch block for the winning point in a 16-14 victory.
“I was just there at the right time,” Murphy said. “Everyone did their role and as a team, that’s what you have to do in order to win games.”
The victory put North Polk at 19-15 and the Comets finished 6-1 in the HOIC. North Polk tied Nevada for the best record in the conference.
“We wanted this really bad,” Aschoff said. “Every point was important to us. We knew that we were playing for something much bigger than us. We were playing for the people in the stands and not just for ourselves.”
An active back row keyed North Polk’s ability to come out on top versus Roland-Story.
Geise was a force at the net with 27 kills and Roland-Story finished with 64 kills to North Polk’s 47. But the Comets did a good job keeping many balls alive and forcing the Norse into mistakes to offset their disadvantage at the net.
“It was pretty fun,” North Polk senior libero Katie Scott said. “(Geise) is a really good opponent — I like playing against her. Everybody hustling on the court pulled out a win tonight.”
North Polk compiled 110 digs. Scott had 25, Aschoff 23, Jalen Heintz 17, Hailey Becker 11 and Emily Byrd 10 to lead the Comets.
At the net North Polk displayed great balance, with six players picking up at least five kills.
Middle hitter Bella Rademacher stepped up with 11 kills to lead the way. Aschoff came through with 10, Murphy and Turk tallied seven apiece, Sydney Anderson had six and Becker five.
Murphy totaled two blocks and Anderson, Becker, Rademacher and Turk each finished with one defensively at the net.
Hailey Steffen had 22 assists and Byrd 20 at setter, running the North Polk attack.
The Comets were 91 of 95 serving with six aces. Byrd went 21 of 22 with two aces, Scott 15 of 16 with a pair of aces, Aschoff 16 of 17 with one ace and Heintz 15 of 15 with an ace.
Roland-Story fell to 24-7 overall and ended up 5-2 in the HOIC.
Amy Rathmacher backed up Geise with 13 kills, and she also went 26 of 26 serving with three aces for the Norse. Freshman Madison Geise was all over the court in a losing effort for Roland-Story, finishing with 54 assists, 21 digs, two kills and one block.