Lady Eagles defend home court in five sets

The Lady Eagles celebrate after beating English Valleys in five sets at home. Keota won the first two sets and made it interesting late, but won the fifth set 15-13.

Keota got a much needed win in district play when they hosted English Valleys on September 17. The Lady Eagles faced three of the toughest opponents in the conference earlier in the month when they played Montezuma, Iowa Valley and Belle Plaine, getting swept in all three matches. They turned things around by getting out to an early lead against the Lady Bears, managing to hold on late to win three of five sets.

The Lady Eagles got out to a quick 5-1 lead to give their girls some needed confidence and they crowd something to cheer about. Some long rallies kept things entertaining for both sides and English Valleys responded by winning five of the next nine points, leading to a timeout by Keota. The Lady Bears kept applying the pressure as they extended the lead out to 10-5. Keota responded with five straight points, getting some mistakes from EV while also succeeding with some attacks at the net, resulting in a tie and a timeout called by the Lady Bears.

The rest of the set went back and forth between the two sides with one rally won by EV, followed by one won by Keota. The Lady Bears got some solid contributions from Cheyenne Conrad, playing tall at the net for blocks and getting chances to attack the Keota defense. Meanwhile, the scrappiness of the Lady Eagles was their biggest benefit, helping keep points alive and letting EV make more mistakes. Keota pulled away with a 25-19 win in the first set, giving the girls in purple something to smile about and the momentum going forward.

Despite losing the first set, the Lady Bears got out to a needed 6-1 lead in set two. Some big serves from Karyssa Westfall helped EV win four straight points, two of which came from aces. Keota put together a string of points to tie things up at nine points, leading to a timeout for EV. Like Westfall for the Lady Bears, Jolee Walker had some solid serves, getting at least a couple aces for the Lady Eagles, helping them take a 16-10 lead.

The Lady Eagles added on with some more points to take a 19-10 lead at a crucial point in the second set. English Valleys took a timeout at that point, sensing the tide turning and needing to slow the charge from the Lady Eagles. Keota took the set with a convincing 25-14 win, pulling away late even though EV put together a short run of their own. The home crowd amped up their effort to help push their team to victory, giving them a two set lead.

“Even though we won the first couple sets we couldn’t give up,” Keota coach Teresa Miller said. “They kept battling and then we fell behind too much in the third set.”

English Valleys got out to an early 15-9 lead in set three by playing tall at the net and playing fast on the court, and in doing so, the girls in blue took back some of the momentum. Some mistakes by Keota helped the Lady Bears stretch their lead deeper into the set, holding serve with a 21-12 lead before Keota called a timeout to regroup. English Valleys came into the third set with their backs against the wall and finished it out strong, winning 25-17.

“I told the girls that somebody better step up. This senior class is notorious for being stubborn and I challenge them to step up or step out,” Lady Bears coach Becky Becker said. “I was totally pleased with how they responded in the third set.”

The Lady Bears rode that momentum into the early stages of the fourth set, getting out to a 7-6 lead. It remained close for the next sequence of points, but a timeout was called by English Valleys after Keota rattled off three straight points, only down 10-11. English Valleys turned things around after the short break, taking a 19-16 lead, resulting in a timeout from Keota. Cheyenne Conrad had a clutch attack at the net for the Lady Bears to hold off Keota late and seal a 25-23 win, forcing a decisive fifth set.

“I’m extremely proud of our girls maintaining our composure throughout the match. This will help us throughout the rest of the season as the competition gets tougher,” Becker said. “We really worked together and communicated.”

Keota got out to a quick 5-1 lead in the final set, leading to an early timeout called by English Valleys. The Lady Bears pushed back with a couple points of their own, but Keota still held a 7-4 lead. Keota extended their lead to 12-6, nearly clinching the win before English Valleys called a timeout. The Lady Bears responded with six straight points to tie it up, leading to some tense final points. Keota managed to stave off the Lady Bear attack late to hold onto a narrow lead. A couple well placed serves from Aaliyah Heldman, combined with an attack from English Valleys that just missed the line, concluded the set with Keota winning 15-13.

“I had to get our girls back on track and focused after that third set,” Miller said. “It was really important to get a win having come off three losses to tough teams. We still need to work on moving our feet more and being on our toes.”

The Lady Eagles were able to withstand the rollercoaster of a match after taking the first two sets, dropping the next two, and putting together some critical points to win the final set.

“For us to know we could maintain through five sets, it was a big deal for us,” Becker said. “We have to be in the best shape and outlast the opponent. We’ve got to start out strong and keep ourselves from getting in a hole.”

Numerous girls contributed for Keota to get the win including Jill Schulte, Jolee Walker, Addison Sprouse, Lauren Imhoff and Heldman. Schulte led her team with 22 assists and 18 digs, combined with three kills, 19 of 20 from the service line and two aces. Walker led the way with eight aces for the Lady Eagles to go along with 14 digs and seven kills.

Sprouse had seven 11 digs, seven kills and one ace while going a perfect 12 for 12 at the service line. Imhoff also had four aces on the night to go along with 15 digs and two assists while Heldman finished the night with 15 digs, three aces and two assists.

The Lady Eagles concluded their week by hosting Tri-County on September 20 while English Valleys hosted Sigourney.