WEST LIBERTY — Coming off a stellar but second-place effort at the Westside Classic over the weekend at Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School, head coach Ruben Galvan wanted to see how his Class 3A seventh-ranked West Liberty volleyball team responded.
"I was a little concerned after this weekend to see how we would bounce back, but I think we played pretty solid volleyball," Galvan said. "I think (our team's) mindset is where we want it to be right now."
The Comets provided answers by sailing through the opening round of the River Valley Conference Tournament on Tuesday night at West Liberty High School.
One of four sites hosting RVC tournament games, West Liberty made short work of Durant in the opening match (21-6, 21-4), then proceeded to dispatch of Northeast (21-10, 21-11) and North Cedar (21-9, 21-13) with relative ease.
Durant ended the night 1-2. After dropping the first pair of matches, the Wildcats recovered to play solid against Northeast and end with a victory (21-16, 21-17).
Prior to that, North Cedar beat Durant in two sets (21-12, 21-16) in the middle group of matches. That victory guaranteed North Cedar a spot in conference finals along with the Comets, as North Cedar beat Northeast in the opener: 21-13, 21-16.
The top two teams from each of the four sections of the RVC's first round will meet Thursday at Wilton High School. Play starts at 5 p.m.
The Wildcats made a run at forcing a third set against North Cedar, but the 10-3 lead the Knights built to start proved too much, even as Durant stormed back and trailed by two as late as 11-9.
West Liberty, meanwhile, flashed a little bit of everything. All-stater Macy Daufeldt went for 11 kills on just 16 attempts against Durant, even as five other Comets recorded multiple kills in the match. That group was led by Mylei Henderson's three.
"This was a perfect time to get some kids in there, give them some opportunities and hopefully get them ready to help us down the road," Galvan said. "It's a work in progress, but (our underclassmen) have had some really good moments that we're excited about. Our upperclassmen have done a really good job of working with them and showing some patience. I think they're really having a lot of fun."
Daufeldt, a senior committed to Drake University, ended with 33 total kills over the three matches on 47 attempts.
Junior setter Brooklyn Buysse had 15 assists in the opener against the Wildcats and went for 58 on the night, with 26 coming in the finale against North Cedar.
Monica Morales' back-to-back aces put West Liberty up 16-5 against the Wildcats in the first set. Morales, a junior, ended the three matches with a West Liberty (32-3) best 37 digs.
Freshman Sophie Buysse and Morales each finished with three aces on the night. She was also second in kills for West Liberty with 12.
Durant (9-22) put up a bit of a fight at the net, as Katelynn Toft and Shannon Head combined for a trio of blocks against the Comet attack, but Durant had little else in the form of solutions against West Liberty, especially after the Comets raced out to 12-2 leads in both sets.
West Liberty was coming off a loss to Class 2A top-ranked powerhouse Dike-New Hartford at the CR Jefferson tournament.
The Comets and Knights will go to Wilton for the final round of the RVC tournament before regional play starts, where West Liberty is the top seed in 3A Region 6 and will play Washington (IA) on Oct. 18 in the first round at West Liberty High School.
"This past weekend isn't going to define who we are, tonight was a good tune up (for Thursday), hopefully we can finish this conference tournament strong and continue that through regionals," said Galvan. "Hopefully we're not satisfied."