WILTON, Iowa — With a three-set win over the Wilton Beavers, the Class 3A ninth-ranked West Liberty Comets not only won the River Valley Conference tournament but avenged their only conference loss of the season.
In the first meeting between the RVC foes, it was Class 2A No. 2 Wilton that proved to be one move ahead when the Beavers took three straight sets during conference play on Oct. 1.
This time around, it was the Comets that didn’t let their opponent find a consistent rhythm, at least in the final two sets.
Ultimately, West Liberty was able to hoist the RVC trophy following a 16-25, 25-20, 15-11 win over the Beavers, who hadn’t given up a set to a conference opponent until Thursday night in Wilton.
Both teams strolled through the first round of play. Wilton beat Cascade 25-16, 25-11. West Liberty defeated Monticello 25-12, 25-16.
Coming in, West Liberty had dropped five of its last seven, with several of those losses coming in weekend tournament play against schools in larger classes.
Still, the win in the conference tournament provided a much-needed boost heading into state postseason play.
“It was amazing,” said West Liberty junior hitter Macy Daufeldt. “I’ve been waiting to do that all season. … This gave us that rush, now we want it to happen again and again. Hopefully our adrenaline will take us to state again this year.”
In the title match, things really swung toward the end of the second set.
“We got tentative at the net,” Wilton head coach Brenda Grunder said. “I think this will refocus us. The first set was very encouraging. But we know they are a tough team.”
On the final play of the middle set, West Liberty setter Brooklyn Buysse lined up for a set to a Comet hitter but instead dropped it over the net for the set-winning point, catching the Beavers off guard.
“(Brooklyn) had some key dumps,” West Liberty head coach Ruben Galvan said. “It took the momentum away from (Wilton). … We couldn’t be happier to have her, she’s a great kid and she’s learning quick. By the end of her career, she’ll be a great one.”
With all-state players dotting the floor for both teams, it was the Comet first-year setter who really threw a curveball at Wilton, playing much more assertively than the first time around.
Buysse ended with 17 assists in the championship match and for a few volleys was even one of the Comets’ more aggressive hitters as she ended up with four kills as well.
In the regular season meeting, Buysse recorded a kill on her only attempt.
“The first meeting showed us what we needed to work on and improvements we needed to make,” Buysse said. “My teammates and coaches have helped me a lot in becoming more confident and comfortable. It’s been a great experience setting for the best hitters.”
The first set picked up right where the last match left off. Which is to say, Wilton (29-3, 9-1 RVC) jumped on top early, taking a 9-3 lead after a Daufeldt kill attempt went into the net. The Comets (24-6, 9-1 RVC) made a valiant effort, getting within three, but Wilton went on to take the first set.
Juniors Kelsey Drake and Carly Puffer led the Beavers in kills, Drake with 15 and Puffer adding nine. Junior setter Ella Caffery had 25 assists.
Daufeldt, a Drake commit, and senior hitter Martha Pace were able to find a few more openings this time around.
Daufeldt ended the match with a kill from the back row off of a Buysse assist that went right down the middle of the court.
“It was nice to see the girls rebound and stick to our game plan,” said Galvan. “We took away a lot of their tip-ins that hurt us a lot (when we played) during the season.
“This is what we needed to get us back in gear.”
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