Iowa City West Wins wild Battle of the Spike

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By KCRG Sports

IOWA CITY, Iowa – It wasn’t conventional, and it certainly didn’t come with all smiles, but the Battle of the Spike ended in favor of the Iowa City West volleyball team.

Through five back-and-forth sets, the Women of Troy (18-6, 4-1 MVC Mississippi) got a dramatic victory last night, defeating Iowa City High, 3-2 (21-25, 25-14, 24-26, 25-13, 16-14).

“Welcome to our world. That’s City-West,” said West Coach Kathy Bresnahan.

West had an up-and-down night, trading sets with City High through the first four, and at times frustrated its coach. Bresnahan said after the match she saw different sides of her team, and was particularly fired up at the beginning of the fourth set.

The Women of Troy had just surrendered the third set, 26-24 after the Little Hawks (12-8, 2-2) scored six straight points. Then, after just one point in favor of City High, Bresnahan took a timeout, letting her team know exactly how she felt.

“In the (fourth) game, I really questioned our kids’ heart, and I really took them to task,” Bresnahan said. “We weren’t aggressive, we were letting City set the tone, and I just went after my seniors and said, ‘Show me some guts. Show me some leadership.’

“And they really took that to heart. We put it on their shoulders, and they came out and started serving tougher.”

The girls certainly heard their coach loud and clear, going forward from the timeout with a visible sense of purpose, and ran away with the fourth set, 25-13.

Leading the charge was junior Laynie Whitehead. Whitehead was all over the floor all night, compiling 16 kills on a 0.516 clip, as well as 25 assists.

The team-leader in kills and assists, Whitehead said she did her best to reassure her teammates on the court in those moments where the Little Hawks gained some momentum. She did her part, too, after the emotional timeout, making critical saves at the net, and setting up her teammates time after time.

“(Bresnahan) was frustrated with the aggression that we came out with, and she challenged us to be more aggressive,” Whitehead said. “I just reassured everybody to just go after it. There was nothing to lose. If you lose a point, it’s not the end of the world. It’s better to make a mistake and be aggressive than not aggressive.”

In the decisive fifth set, City High mounted one last rally, staving off the final point with back to back points that tied things at 14-14. Bresnahan, who had taken a timeout with the score 12-11, called another.

She wasn’t about to let the Little Hawks, and their own leader, Michaela Nelson – who went shot-for-shot with Whitehead all night – keep their momentum riding high.

“I didn’t want (City High) to keep feeding on that, like throwing chum to a shark,” Bresnahan said. “That’s what it looked like with Michaela Nelson over there. She’s a great player. If she beats us, that’s fine, but we didn’t want anybody else to beat us with tips.”

When it was all said and done, Bresnahan was certainly all smiles.

With all her team went through in an emotional, rivalry match, she was proud of the fortitude the Women of Troy showed.

“We had to show some guts,” Bresnahan 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.”

And for the players’ part, the win held high significance, especially after City High ousted West in last year’s Regional final, en route to a runner-up finish at the state tournament.

Whitehead echoed her coach in hoping her team can learn from the victory.

“It’s always big to beat City,” Whitehead said. “This kind of lets us know we can battle back from any situation. In the back of our mind, we can think about this match and know we lost some sets and came back. It certainly gives us confidence.”

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