—by Todd Thorson

In what appeared to be the start of a nice run through the 3A Regional volleyball tournament suddenly went south, as the season ended much too soon for the Roland-Story girls. Having defeated North Polk earlier in the season, it didn’t seem to matter to the Comets, as it’s always tough to beat a team the second or third time around. North Polk is also playing their best volleyball of the season right now; and they were also playing before their home crowd for their first round match up with the Norsemen on Monday, Oct. 28 in Alleman.

"North Polk had improved since the last time we played them" said Coach Molly Geise, "but so had we. I think if we play them 10 times we would win over half the time, but tonight was their night."

Coach Geise felt her girls were prepared and ready to take on the Comets. They had just had a good week of practice, and were coming off an excellent tune up to the post season, having played in the Johnston tournament against some much larger schools.

But, "North Polk played a pretty flawless match," stated Geise, "and rally scoring volleyball is a game of errors."

The Norse looked impressive to start the match, as they appeared primed to keep their goal of going to state alive. In set one, R-S led by scores of 9-1, 16-3 and 20-10, with the final score reading 25-15 in favor of the visiting Norse.

In set two, the Norsemen and Comets went back and forth, and down the stretch North Polk managed a few bigger runs than the Norse. With R-S trailing by just a 20-16 score, the Comets quickly closed out the set with five consecutive points to win going away 25-16.

Games three and four went similar to the end of set two, with North Polk holding the upper hand throughout, as they soon took control of the match. Set three went to the Comets 25-22. Trailing most of the game in the early going at 6-3 and 10-6 of set three, the Norse clawed their way back to take a 16-15 lead. But NP reeled off six consecutive points to go up 21-16. R-S came back to cut it to 21-19 on a sideout, a big kill by Schyler Polaski and a huge block by Anna Himan. Unfortunately, three costly errors by the Norsemen resulted in North Polk’s final three tallies to win the set 25-22.

In set four, the problems continued for the Norse, as they fell behind 7-2, 11-3 and 13-4, before the two teams began a stretch of trading points. R-S managed to cut the lead to 17-11, but the Comets soon were back up by 10 at 22-12. The final margin was 25-18 in favor of the Comets.

As the evening wore on, the Norsemen seemed to lose that fire and spunk they had in set one. Their passing, hitting and serving continued to unravel as each game unfolded. "We just weren’t as clean playing as the night went on," said a disappointed Coach Geise.

All totaled, the Norsemen’s serve/receive/passing ratio was 1.93, 1.53, 2.3 and 2.1 in each of the four sets; one meaning they only had one option to set, two meaning an opportunity to set twice and three meaning an opportunity to set all three hitters (i.e. a perfect pass). The Norsemen’s hitting efficiency was also very low for most of the night following their set one win, dropping from a .265 efficiency rating to .000, .179 and .062 in games 2-4. Serving too was an uncharacteristic disappointment as the evening progressed, something the Norse had been excelling in as of late. Their serving percentage went from 96 percent in game one, to 94.1 in set two and continued a downward spiral, dropping to 82 percent in set three and finally 79 percent in the final set. The Norsemen had four ace serves in the first set, and could only produce one in the final three sets combined.

Lauren Himan led the Norse attack with a 32 for 43 performance at the net, with 11 kills. Anna Himan went 18 for 19, with 10 kills and six blocks. Schyler Polaski was 17 for 19 at the net, with six kills. Alexa Whipple was 13 for 18 in the attack zone, with six kills as well. And Kelsey Polaski was a perfect 11 for 11 at the net, with two kills.

Libby Faga had 16 assists, while Molly Fink dished off 11. Jennifer Demiter had 19 digs and Schyler Polaski had 11.

"It’s unfortunate that it wasn’t our night," concluded a saddened Coach Geise. "This team has a ton of talent as a group. They enjoyed 21 wins this season, plus a second place finish in the conference. The only teams we lost to this season were ranked, besides North Polk."

The Norse finish their 2013 season with an impressive 21-9 record. Six seniors will be lost to graduation come next season, they are: Libby Faga, Jennifer Demiter, Schyler Polaski, Molly Fink, Erin Nuetzman and Anna Himan.

North Polk went on to defeat favored and ranked East Sac in three sets last Thursday night (Oct. 31) at Lake View in their following regional matchup, as the Comets continue to be a force along the tournament trail. North Polk faced Kuemper Catholic last night in the 3A regional final at Perry. The State Volleyball Tournament will be held Tuesday through Friday, Nov. 12-15 in Cedar Rapids.