WAPELLO, Iowa − The Durant volleyball team has pushed ranked teams to the brink multiple times this season, so coach Renee Meyer and junior Kamryn Meyer were both unsure if Tuesday night was the best match the team had played all season.
But there’s no question that the result, a 25-14, 27-25, 25-15 sweep of Wapello (20-12) in the opening round of regionals to end the Arrows’ season was everything the Wildcats (14-20) could have hoped for.
“I thought we took command from the start and kept it throughout,” Renee said. “We’re coming together.”
The Wildcats, sparked by Kamryn, cruised through the opening set in the Arrows’ gym. They jumped out to an early 7-2 lead, and she had already compiled four of her team-high 14 kills at that point. From there, the Wildcats’ dominance on both sides of the net carried them through the remainder of the match.
Wapello senior Mariah Mitchell entered Tuesday with 447 kills, so Durant knew it had to slow her down in order to have a chance to advance and extend its season.
“I think we just had to keep our blocks up because Mitchell is their best player,” Kamryn said. “We had to do that and communicate. (We knew) if we stopped her than we were good.”
The Wildcats did just that, as Mitchell was held to 19 kills, and more importantly, she had her fair share of attempts blocked by a wall of tall Wildcats at the net throughout the night. Junior Annie Taylor led the Wildcats with six blocks, while Kamryn and junior Aubrin Dittmer each added three.
As a result, Wapello coach Ken Spielbauer said his team was never able to find much of a rhythm on offense, which resulted in too many opportunities for Durant.
“That allows you to run a quicker offense and I thought that was to our advantage tonight,” Renee said. “They didn’t run hardly any quick stuff so that allowed us to get our block set and go up.”
Even so, it certainly appeared for most of the second set that Tuesday’s match would come down to the wire as Wapello jumped out to a 7-3 lead and held a lead for almost the entire set. But the Wildcats rallied and took their first lead 20-19 after an ace by Kamryn, and had a set point at 24-23. After two consecutive kills from Mitchell, Wapello found itself with a chance to level the match, but Durant won the next three points to take the set, punctuated by one of Taylor’s six kills.
“We just needed to get that game and see what could happen,” Spielbauer said. “You have to give them credit, they played well and we weren’t sharp.”
Smelling a date with Wilton in the Class 2A Region 8 regional quarterfinals, Durant turned it up a notch in the third game and took it to Wapello similar to the way it did in the third set. Senior Ruby Kappeler continued her excellent season, as the junior had 32 assists and set up the Wildcats hitters time after time in what proved to be a resounding 25-15 third set win to clinch the sweep.
Now Durant will take on Wilton for the fourth time this season Monday at Wilton. The Beavers (32-5) won the previous three matchups but the Wildcats took a set each time and Renee hopes they believe they’re capable of even more this time.
“We have a game plan put together with Wilton and I think we can play with them,” Renee said. “We just have to believe (we can) and execute the game plan.”