In the first set, the Tomah Timberwolves were in complete control before letting it slip away.
Which meant the Timberwolves played four sets instead of three.
The Timberwolves shook off their shaky conclusion of the first set to score a decisive 24-26, 25-15, 25-14, 25-17 victory over the Spartans in a Mississippi Valley Conference volleyball match Tuesday at Tomah High School.
Tomah coach Sarah Walters was impressed by how her team played during the last three sets.
“The girls don’t give up,” Walters said. “We talked about intensity, and they were able to bring that and keep plugging away in the second, third and fourth sets.”
The result reversed a five-set loss at Sparta Aug. 31, and Walters said that result left Tomah with “a score to settle.”
Tomah appeared in score-settling mode for much of the first set after taking a 7-2 lead and maintaining a modest cushion for most of the set. The Timberwolves still led 21-17 before Sparta reeled off five straight points.
The Timberwolves seemed to regain control after a Madison Lindauer block gave them a 24-22 lead, but Sparta unloaded with the set’s final four points, including a hard spike from Becca Jenkins off a Timberwolves’ double block that delivered set point.
“I did not like the first set,” Walters said. “It seems like it takes us a little while to get started.”
The Timberwolves took a 5-2 lead in the second set, but the two teams traded points to 19-15 before Tomah suddenly ripped off six straight points, including a pair of Reis Derousseau service aces, to claim the set.
Sparta grabbed a 9-7 lead in the third set before the Timberwolves took control with an 8-2 run. A Tomah service fault sliced the margin to 15-12, but a 6-0 run that included a pair of block kills by Mallory Pierce extended the advantage to 21-12. The two teams traded points until another Derousseau service ace rang up Tomah’s 25th point.
Tomah led all of the fourth set, but Sparta narrowed the gap to 18-15 before a Derousseau spike and a Savannah Murphy tip triggered a 7-2 run that ended the match. Derousseau delivered match point with a spike from the back row.
Walters said Tomah’s passing and setting were on target after the first set. She said the Spartans were loading up on the middle block and that her setters did a good job of moving the ball to the outside hitters.
“They all worked well together tonight,” Walters said.
The Timberwolves also took advantage of an increasing number of free balls as the match progressed.
“One of the things we talked about was keeping them on their heels,” Walters said. “When you push them and make them move, it allows us to have more free balls and do more things on our offensive end.”
Derousseau had a big night with 29 kills, five aces, three blocks and seven digs. Murphy finished with four kills and two blocks, while Lindauer and Pierce each had four blocks.
Abby Larsen led the setters with 24 assists, nine digs and two aces. Lily Redcloud added 19 assists, three aces and five digs.
Madisyn Brey, Tomah’s libero, had 14 digs.
The Spartans were led by Jenkins, who had eight kills and three blocks.
Tomah split the two sub-varsity contests. The varsity reserve squad won 2-1 to boost its MVC record to 3-5, while the junior varsity lost 2-1 and fell to 4-4 in the MVC.
The Timberwolves travel to Holmen for an MVC contest Tuesday, Oct. 5 and return home two days later to host MVC rival Onalaska.
The varsity reserve and junior varsity squads host a quadrangular with Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau, Mauston and Eau Claire Regis Saturday at 9 a.m. at Tomah High School.
Results of Sept. 26
Tomah def. Sparta 24-26, 25-15, 25-14, 25-17
Aquinas def. Central 25-13, 25-15, 25-18
Onalaska def. Logan 25-15, 25-27, 26-24, 25-12