NEVADA — The monkey is finally off North Polk’s back.
Entering the 2018 volleyball postseason, the Comets have won at least 20 matches every year since 2012. But they had gone 0-8 combined in Heart of Iowa Conference and postseason matches against traditional power Nevada during that time frame.
That all changed in the Class 3A regional quarterfinal volleyball match between the two HOIC co-champions Oct. 17 at the Nevada High School Field House.
North Polk came out with fire and determination. The Comets completely outclassed the Cubs in the first set and, even more impressively, responded extremely well to a close loss in the second set with another decisive win in the third, followed by a big comeback in the fourth to win the match and advance to the regional semifinals.
“We knew how good we are,” North Polk senior outside hitter Nora Aschoff said. “We wanted to show them how good we are.”
North Polk won the first set by a 25-13 score. In the second set, the Comets rebounded from an early 7-1 deficit to move in front late as a Hailey Steffen ace gave them a 24-23 lead and game point.
But a North Polk serving error, followed by a Kacie Rewerts block for Nevada, put the Cubs back up 25-24. Morgan Tupper then came up with a kill for the winning point in a 26-24 Nevada triumph.
Despite the loss, the North Polk players refused to let doubt creep into their minds. They weren’t about to let Nevada get in their heads.
The Comets raced out to a 10-4 lead and withstood a Nevada charge that brought the Cubs within 12-11. North Polk scored seven consecutive points following a time out to go up 19-11 and coasted to a 25-18 victory that was capped by a Jaedon Murphy kill.
The strong finish to the third set took a little out of North Polk heading into the fourth set. Nevada appeared poised to force a rally game by building a huge 12-4 lead.
But Aschoff’s turn to serve came up in the rotation and the tide immediately swung back in North Polk’s favor in a big way.
Aschoff did nothing fancy — she just simply put the ball in play every serve. But Nevada began to unravel with error after error and North Polk also came up with several key kills and blocks as part of an 11-0 run that put the Comets up 15-12.
“It’s definitely my team,” Aschoff said. “They were there for everything. Whenever a free ball came over or a hit, we were ready. We just came together. It was all of us.”
North Polk eventually stretched its lead to 22-15 on a Liz Turk kill. Nevada tried to hang around as a Rewerts tip and Comet error pulled Nevada within 24-19, but Bella Rademacher put the final nail in the Cubs’ coffin with a kill from the right side for the winning point to end the match.
“It felt so good,” Aschoff said. “We showed that we can come back no matter what kind of adversity we face. Our motto this year is ‘all in’ and that was so important to us. We went all in for every point.”
Nevada hurt North Polk with its block during the regular season match between the two teams, won by the Cubs in four sets. In the regional quarterfinals, North Polk gave them a taste of their own medicine by racking up 16 blocks.
“I think we were just more prepared,” North Polk middle hitter Bella Rademacher said. “Our whole team knew what we had to do, and we just went out there and performed to our best potential.”
Rademacher tallied five blocks and kills apiece. Murphy and Sydney Anderson both had eight kills and four blocks.
Turk paced the Comets with 11 kills. Hailey Becker stepped up with five kills from the right side — including two key ones to help close out the third set — and she also had two aces.
“I feel like I just had really good passes,” Becker said. “Everyone was passing really well, that would give our setters good passes and then the sets were amazing, so I loved that.”
Emily Byrd had 19 assists and also finished with 11 digs and one ace. Steffen dished out 12 assists and went 17 of 20 serving with an ace.
Aschoff and libero Katie Scott were active in the back row with 22 and 23 digs respectively. Aschoff also had five kills and went 15 of 16 serving with one ace and Scott was 13 of 15 serving with two aces.
Jalen Heintz also performed well in the back row with 13 digs.
The victory gave North Polk another 20-win season. The Comets improved to 20-15 and set up a regional semifinal match with Des Moines Christian (24-7) back in Nevada.
Nevada finished the season at 22-18. Rewerts had 19 kills, seven digs and four blocks for the Cubs; Morgan Tupper had 20 assists, 17 digs, nine kills, three blocks and one ace and Amanda Fortmann chipped in 15 assists and 13 digs.