WILTON, Iowa – Wilton coach Brenda Grunder knew Monday’s Class 2A Region 8 quarterfinal match against rival Durant would be a battle. The Beavers had beaten the Wildcats each of the previous three times this season, but they were all competitive matches and the Wildcats took a set each time.

Certainly, Monday’s match was more of the same, with momentum seesawing back-and-forth in front of a rowdy crowd. But once again for the fourth time this season and sixth time in a row it was Wilton who emerged victorious, 25-21, 21-25, 25-20, 25-17 to advance to the regional semifinals and end Durant’s season.

“I think we expected the long rallies and big swings on both sides,” Grunder said. “I felt our poise came back and that’s what carried us through.”

The Beavers (33-5) jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the opening set and maintained that edge throughout on their way to a 25-21 first-set victory. The teams played to a 10-10 tie in the second set, but junior Aubrey Putman sparked the Beavers with three of her 25 kills to give them a 16-11 lead.

In addition flashing offensive versatility by getting kills using both power and finesse, Putman showed off her improved all-around game with a match-high 56 assists. She was also the main beneficiary of 51 assists from senior Kallie Poor.

The Wildcats (14-21) responded with their best volleyball of the evening and went on a 9-0 run, which started and ended with a kill from junior Kamryn Meyer, who had 22 kills. Durant was able to hold on and win the second set.

However, the Wildcats carried that momentum over to the third set. Junior Ruby Kappeler opened the set with an ace, and junior Aubrin Dittmer, who had 14 kills, got rolling offensively. As a result, the Wildcats opened up a 13-7 lead.

But it didn’t last.

“That run we had in the third set, if we keep that lead….” Durant coach Renee Meyer said. “We just got in a bad rotation and couldn’t get out of it.”

Wilton, sparked by big serving from junior Kortney Drake and five consecutive kills from Putman, rattled off 11 consecutive points to take control of the set.

“We talked a lot the last three weeks about the mental part of the game,” Grunder said. “They trust each other and have each other’s backs throughout those up and down moments in a volleyball match.

“I think that’s what carries us through a lot of tough spots.”

The Beavers maintained the lead in the third and won the set 25-20 and never lost control of the match again. Although Grunder said their block wasn’t as good as she hoped, both Putman and junior Emily Lange stepped up in that regard in the fourth set, which eventually ended with a kill by Drake to send Wilton to the semifinals.

“I’ve told the kids the last three weeks I’m so proud of them,” Grunder said. “We’re right where we want to be. We’ve continued to add more and more pieces to the puzzle and this is where we wanted to be.”

Wilton 25-21-25-25, Durant 21-25-20-17

Kills – Wilton, Aubrey Putman 25, Kortney Drake 14, Taylor Goldermann 7, Emily Lange 6, Lexi Maurer 4; Durant, Kamryn Meyer 22, Aubrin Dittmer 14, Mallory Warner 7, Annie Taylor 5, Paige Werthmann 2, Ruby Kappeler 2. Assists – Wilton, Putman 56, Kallie Poor 51, Goldermann 49, Drake 38; Durant, Kappeler 44, Happ 4. Digs – Maurer 24, Kali Milder 23, Putman 21; Durant, Meyer 18, Hannah Happ 17, Kappeler 16. Blocks – Wilton, Emily Lange 2, Taylor Goldermann 2, Putman; Durant, Dittmer 2, Mallory Warner, Annie Taylor. Aces – Wilton, Goldermann 2, Milder, Drake, Putman; Durant, Meyer 3, Kappeler 2, Happ, Jada Rock.

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Sports Reporter