HARLAN, Iowa — It had happened just 10 days earlier in the West Des Moines Valley volleyball tournament.
Already down a set that day in a best-of-three match with Class 5-A No. 2 West Des Moines Dowling, Harlan Community trailed in the second set 17-13 and later faced two match points. The Cyclones rallied for a 30-28 win, and went on to hand the Maroons their only loss to date.
On Tuesday, immediately after allowing seven straight points, Harlan gathered itself and scored seven of the next eight for a 22-all tie. Moments later, the Class 4-A No. 2 Cyclones closed out Class 3-A No. 3 Carroll Kuemper 25-16, 25-15, 27-25 in Hawkeye Ten Conference play before a large, spirited crowd in the Harlan gymnasium.
“We've had to do that,” Harlan coach Angie Spangenberg said of rallying late in a set. “The early tournaments help you, learning how to battle through things. Sometimes it doesn't always go your way. You can't waste too much time worrying about what happened.”
The match pitted teams ranked first (Harlan) and second (Kuemper) in The World-Herald's large-school ratings. Harlan improved to 10-2 overall and 2-0 in league play, while dropping the Knights to 9-1 and 2-1.
Kuemper played well through most of the first set and in the third set. But in between, Harlan scored the final seven points of the opener to turn an 18-16 advantage into a 25-16 win, and then cruised in the second set. Harlan dominated the net, while Kuemper sprayed the ball all over the court during that 32-15 stretch.
“The third game was a positive,” Kuemper coach Keith Stickrod said. “We came back and played strong. What we're going to take away from this is, I think we fell apart and we realize now that we've got to pick each other up. When we get down in that lull, no matter who it is, my back row has to help out the hitters and vice versa.”
Harlan returned four of its top six hitters, but 5-foot-8 senior Tara Knudson wasn't in last year's rotation. Through 23 sets this year, she had only six kills. On Tuesday, she surpassed her season total in one match, whipping seven kills on 15 attempts with no errors for a .467 hitting percentage. Her kill total was second on the team to Iowa State recruit Jess Schaben's 15.
“She put the ball down for us, and we need her to do that on the outside,” Spangenberg said. “I just thought she played with a lot of poise and was a good leader for us.”
Paige Overmohle's consecutive aces — the only two by Kuemper in the match — highlighted the visitors' 7-0 run that put them up 21-15 in the third. Six-foot-1 sophomore middle Taylor Frederick had a pair of solo blocks and an assist, and 5-8 junior outside hitter Elle Kloewer added back-to-back kills to spark Harlan's 7-1 response that tied it at 22.
Senior Claire Ludwig's kill gave Kuemper a set point at 24-23, but Schaben tied it with a kill. After an errant Knight hit, Kuemper fought off a match point on Ludwig's kill after a lengthy rally.
Junior setter Kenzie Swanson then dumped one into a open spot to give Harlan its second match point, and Schaben converted an offspeed kill to end the hour-long match. Swanson had 34 assists.
“They got on a little run at the end there, and we kind of were like, 'Oh gosh, we better kick it into gear,'” Swanson said. “That's just what we did. We played with a lot of heart at the end.”
Carroll Kuemper (9-1, 2-1) ......... 16 15 25
Harlan (10-2, 2-0) ....................... 25 25 27
CK (kills-aces-blocks): Claire Ludwig 8-0-0, Taylor Boldt 0-0-0, Maria Dentlinger 7-0-2, Morgan Naberhaus 0-0-0, Karla Knobbe 0-0-0, Hannah Macke 0-0-0, Paige Overmohle 4-2-1, Nicole Becker 5-1-0, Melissa Wagner 0-0-0, Kaitlyn Tigges 0-0-0, Abby Derner 3-0-1.
H: Asia Kloewer 1-0-0, Elle Kloewer 7-0-1, Jess Schaben 15-0-3, Jessica DuVal 0-0-0, Jordyn Moser 0-0-0, Kenzie Swanson 3-1-0, Tara Knudson 7-0-1, Taylor Frederick 6-0-6, Taylor Wagner 3-2-2.
Set assists: CK, Naberhaus 23, Knobbe 1, Macke 1, Overmohle; H, Swanson 34, Wagner 2, Moser 2.