Meg Besler bombed away for a season-high 24 kills and Libby Lansing added 12 as the Western Dubuque volleyball team recorded its first three-game sweep of the season, beating Cedar Rapids Washington (25-21, 25-16, 25-18) at Epworth, Sept. 22.
Things didn’t come as easy for the Bobcats as most people would have predicted in this Mississippi Valley Conference battle with their Mississippi Division foe. Already playing without Meredith Bahl, the Bobcats had to go deeper into their roster to find a replacement for Maddie Harris, another outside hitter and six-rotation player, who was out of the line-up because of exposure to COVID-19. To fill the hole, Besler moved to the left side and freshman Hailey Wulfekuhle filled the vacant spot on the right side. However, no matter who is swinging at the net for the Bobcats, the offense goes through the experienced hands of Madison Maahs who was spreading the ball to multiple attackers throughout the match with many of those sets being left for Besler.
“She’s such a great utility player and we love having Meg attack on the right side, and I’ll never say that she doesn’t belong on the right side, but it’s nice to know that we can put her anywhere and she’s going to do her job,” said Megan Scherrman, the Bobcats’ head coach, about her senior outside hitter. “She’s a baller. She’s fun to watch.”
“It was definitely different, but coming into practice I knew what I had to do because we were missing some teammates,” said Besler. “I just had to pick it up and put the ball away. I was just doing it for my team to try to pull out a win.”
Besler played a big role in the opening set to get things going for the Bobcats, but the play of Lansing late in the game controlled the net and helped pull out the first set 25-21.
Set two was a lot more Besler and Wulfekuhle recorded her first kill to put the Bobcats up 9-4. Later in the set, Maci Steffen reeled off back-to-back aces to grab a 22-11 lead on the way to taking the set 25-16.
“It was great to watch Hailey come out and perform the way she did today. She stepped, very unexpectedly, as a six-rotation player. She wasn’t nervous. She did her job. That’s huge for us that we can count on our girls to come in and do that for us,” said Scherrman. “It’s 2020 and you never know what’s going to happen so to know that we have girls who we trust and they can set in and play at this level is big.”
In the third set, the Bobcats made a push when they sided out on a kill by Franny Heiberger to take a 10-9 lead. With Natalie Ulrichs serving, Belser wrapped two kills around an ace by Ulrichs to grab a 13-9 lead. Besler hammered down four more kills during an 8-5 stretch that put the ‘Cats up 21-14 while three kills by Lansing and a kill by Besler accounted for the final four points of the match to secure the sweep for Western Dubuque.
“We’re getting real close to October so we have to use every point and every game wisely. We have to get better. We can’t settle,” said Scherrman. “Yeah a win is great, but we’ve got to make sure that we’re learning something from every win and we’re getting better every game.”
“We know that we have to come into each match with a state championship mindset no matter who is on the court and no matter who we are playing. We want to get back there so badly,” said Besler about returning to the state tournament finals in Cedar Rapids. “We play every point in practice like a state championship point. We know that we can’t take any point for granted because you never know when your ability to play might get taken away. We just want to be down there again at the end of the season.”
WD’s leaders were: kills — Besler 24, Lansing 12, Franny Heiberger four, Hailey Wulfekuhle two, Maci Steffen and Maahs one each; assists — Maahs 39, Ella Meyer and Steffen one each; digs —Meyer 16, Natalie Ulrichs nine, Wulfekuhle eight, Maahs seven, Besler three, Steffen two and Heiberger one; blocks — Lansing and Steffen three each, Belser and Maahs one each; serves — Steffen 16-of-16, Maahs 12-of-12, Ulrichs 10-of-10; aces — Besler three, Meyer, Steffen and Ulrichs two each.