No. 2 Hamilton in Division I vs. No. 1 Ironwood Ridge in Division II. It lived up to the teams reputations as title contenders, but Hamilton tallied the big points when they were needed most Wednesday night in corraling a 25-22, 25-22, 23-25, 25-20 triumph at Hamilton High.
Hamilton brought a perfect 10-0 power-ranking match record to its floor and Ironwood Ridge a pristine 9-0 mark. As Ironwood Ridge coach Bill Lang said, it was a matchup of philosophies. — Hamilton's offensive game against his squad's defensive posture.
“Their hallmark is an offensive display,” Lang said. “(Hamilton coach) Sharon (Vanis) knows we are defensive-minded and ball control. It was a good match. We like scheduling each other. We get a lot out of a match like this.”
Hamilton (25-3, 11-0 prm) notched the first set with a 4-0 run to close it. Kills by Preslie Anderson, Olivia Hallaran and Carley Bock supplied the necessary finishing touch. The second set began with Ironwood Ridge dazed and confused. Hamilton broke out to a 10-1 advantage. From that point forward, Irronwood Ridge was all in.
The Lady Nighthawks battled back to within 14-13 and within 24-22 before a Hallaran kill made it 2-0 Hamilton.
Ironwood Ridge (26-7, 9-1 prm) was quite close to the top of its game in the third set, leading all the way save a 1-0 deficit. Senior outside hitter Mykaela Hammer had five of her match-high 18 kills in the set. Teammate Kennedy Kurtz added 12 kills and Aunesty Jantz had eight. Setter Jordan Weatherless had 30 assists and kept Hamilton off-balance with change-up kills.
The fourth set was much the same with no more than three points separating the teams late. Hallaran capped a 15-kill night with three of Hamilton's final four points.The Lady Huskies leader in kills, McKenna Woodford had 10 and Anderson chiipped in with nine. Woodford's kills Wednesday were more of the tip and finesse variety with Ironwood Ridge defending her deep. Vanis wasn't too pleased with her team's blocking, but defensive specialist Shelby Babcock (21 digs) and Hallaran (20 digs) helped offset an inconsistent block.
“We haven't had many matches that reached the 20s,” Lang said. “When you get down to the last few points you can't afford break downs. We had some and didn't handle serve-receive very well.. We didn't play well enough to beat a top D-I team like Hamilton. In matches you're either winning or learning. We'll look at the tape, digest it and learn from it.”
Hamilton, in the middle of the second week of its fall break, had a tough time finding consistency in the match.
“We've been a little out of synch,” Vanis said. “They seem to dictate when they want to play. We got it done when it was crunch time, but you'd like to see intensity there from the time you step on the court until it's over.”