IOWA CITY– West High varsity volleyball coach Kathy Bresnahan can be blunt, doesn’t mince words, and gets right to the heart of it. Tuesday, Oct. 8, during the annual battle with City High for The Spike, she went to the heart of her team and made them take a look inside themselves.
“I went to my seniors and I said, ‘show me some guts. Show me some leadership. You haven’t shown us anything.’ And they really took that to heart,” Bresnahan said. “We weren’t aggressive. We were letting City High set the tone.” While she did not question their talent, she did wonder about their determination. “I really did question their heart.”
And it worked.
The Women of Troy put out a stronger effort and gutted-out a gritty 3-2 win over the Little Hawks to keep the gold railroad spike for another year in the emotion-packed City High gym.
The Little Hawks pulled ahead in the first set and took it 25-21 while West won the second set 25-14. The momentum shifted back to City in the third as the Hawks took the set, 26-24.
Bresnahan’s heart-to-heart conversation came early in the fourth set.
“We put it on their shoulders and they came out and started serving tougher,” she said. West plowed their way to a 13-7 lead, prompting a City time out. The Women of Troy continued their assault and took the set 25-13 leading the rivals to a match-deciding fifth set.
West again had the early lead, but City charged back and knotted the game 12-12, and an ace serve gave the Little Hawks the lead. The set tied again at 13-all and 14-all, and Bresnahan used a pair of time-outs, nearly back-to-back.
“City had grabbed all the momentum,” she explained. “I didn’t want them to keep feeding on that, like throwing chum to a shark.” Bresnahan said that’s what it looked like to her with City standout Michaela Nelson. “She’s a great player. If she beats us, that’s fine. But, we don’t want anybody else to beat us with tips.” The Women of Troy overcame Nelson and the Little Hawks to end the set with a 16-14 win, and took The Spike back home with them.
The series began in 1982 with City taking the Spike while West won the next year. Since then the Women of Troy have won the piece of railroad iron, mounted on a plaque 18 times to City’s 14. The Little Hawks last had the trophy in 2010, it’s been West’s ever since.
As for the win, in addition to the bragging rights, Bresnahan sees it as a learning experience for her squad. “We had to show some guts,” she said. “We’re not a loud team… they’re just nice kids, and sometimes you can’t be successful and be nice. I hope we build on this and gain some confidence.”
Laynie Whitehead, a junior, led the attack with 16 kills, senior Mollie Mason had 14 and junior Mikaela Morgan had a dozen. Whitehead had 25 assists while senior Lizzy Klemme had 20. Mason, Klemme and freshman Gabi Delsing all had a pair of ace serves to their credit as well. The victory moved West to an 18-6 record, and the Women of Troy were ninth in the Oct. 10 rankings issued by the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union. City dropped to a 12-8 record and was not in the rankings.
The teams will take separate paths to the state tournament with City in Class 5A Regional 4 and West in 5A Regional 7. The Women of Troy got a first-round bye and will play at home on Thursday, Oct. 31, against the winner of the Cedar Rapids Jefferson/Linn-Mar contest scheduled for the 28th.
West will travel to Cedar Falls on Saturday, Oct. 19, for the MVC tournament and wrap-up the regular season on the road at Prairie on Tuesday, Oct. 22.