WEST LIBERTY, Iowa – From playing with a cheese ball to a two-set lead disappearing, Thursday night’s River Valley Conference matchup between West Liberty (20-7, 4-4) and Durant (10-16, 2-6) was anything but ordinary.
Breaking down each set of the 25-20, 25-15, 17-25, 24-26, 15-12 West Liberty senior night victory and then trying to piece it all back together was like taking pieces from five different puzzles and getting them all to connect.
Yet, somehow it all fit together.
The Comets overcame an early 5-0 deficit against Durant to win the first set 25-20, and then never trailed in a 25-15 second-set victory. On the verge of sending seniors Brianna Morales, Breana Thurness and Emma Martin out on top in their final home game, the Comets suddenly faced a resilient Wildcats team that refused to go away.
After the second set, Durant coach Renee Meyer gathered her team in a huddle.
“I told them in the huddle I wanted to play five games, and they just needed to pick up their intensity,” Meyer said. “I told them they have the potential, but we just got to put it all together."
The teams were even 7-7 early in the third game before play was stopped to clean off the volleyball, which had landed in a pile of cheese in the stands on the previous rally.
Durant went on an 18-10 run to close the set and force a fourth game.
"Maybe we should smear some cheese on the ball earlier," Meyer joked after the match."
Trailing 7-2 in the next set, the Wildcats summoned for the same towel that was used to clean the volleyball to clear up a slick spot on the court. Continuing to chip away despite falling further behind 18-9 the Wildcats stormed back to even the match with a 26-24 set victory.
Suddenly Durant had all the momentum and a versatile playmaker in Kamryn Meyer who led the Wildcats in kills, 15, and digs, 20.
Despite the pressure of potentially letting a two-set lead slip away in their final home match of the season, the Comets said they never lost confidence.
Morales came through with big play after big play, recording a match-high 18 kills along with three blocks.
Defensively, junior Macy Akers, who led the River Valley Conference in digs heading into Thursday with 398, added 46 more against Durant.
“We just gave it our all,” Morales said. “We told ourselves it’s our last set, it’s our last home game, we have to push.”
But even with West Liberty jumping out to a 14-6 lead in the final set, it wouldn’t be complete without one last rally from the Wildcats.
While Durant went on another 6-0 run and as it felt like not only another game was slipping away from West Liberty but the entire match, Comets freshman Martha Pace delivered the knockout blow, her 10th kill of the night.
“We just had a lot of confidence in each other, we were able to push each other a lot,” Martin said. “We finally had that drive to win.”