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DURANT, Iowa – While the Durant volleyball team has reached the postseason, it knows a loss this week in the River Valley Conference tournament wouldn't end its season.

As a result, coach Mark Lau watched his team play "free and easy" while knocking off Monticello 21-16, 21-7 and Cascade 21-10, 21-18 during the opening night of the conference tournament Tuesday at Durant High School.

The Wildcats have now won 14 of their last 17 and turn their attention toward Thursday when they will be one of eight teams vying for the conference championship.

"We got down a couple points (Tuesday) night, and nobody really had to stress out," Lau said. "We just knew that we could play together and we had good opportunities, and being able to play in that capacity really sets the girls up for success.

"We're in a great spot. It's now just needing to continue to do it and have a few less faltering moments."

Durant started strong in its first game of the night against Monticello, jumping out to a 14-7 lead before Monticello ran off five consecutive points and twice battled back to within two points. Durant, though, secured the victory with a 3-0 run and then cruised to a 14-point win in the second set.

Kamryn Meyer recorded a team-high six kills and five digs. Ruby Kappeler added 16 assists and seven digs, while Paige Werthmann and Annie Taylor each finished with three blocks. Durant also had 12 aces in the match, with Taylor recording five and Aubrin Dittmer four. 

"We can serve really, really aggressively, score a lot of points and get a lot of teams out of system," Lau said. " ... We got to be a little bit sharper in our defensive transitions, but beyond that, if you're not prepared for us to serve tough at you, it's going to be a short night for most teams we play."

After falling behind 7-6 in the first set against Cascade, Durant finished on a 14-3 run and then used a 5-1 run to rally back from a 17-16 in the second game and complete back-to-back straight-set victories.

Meyer again led the team in kills with 10 while also finishing with six digs and two blocks. Hannah Happ paced the Wildcats with nine digs, and Mallory Warner had a team-high five blocks. Kappeler and Meg Koenig each had eight assists.

"Thursday, get into the championship game for conference," Kappeler said of the goals moving forward. "Other than that, going through the postseason, we have a lot of good teams in our bracket and getting past the No. 2 ranked team (Beckman Catholic) and getting to state would be huge." 

Durant will play Anamosa in the opening round of Thursday's championship bracket.

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Sports Reporter