It was everything the fans wanted to see, but more than the Western Dubuque volleyball team could handle as they dropped a tough five-set match to Hempstead (25-15, 22-25, 10-25, 26-24, 13-15) at Dubuque, Sept. 15.

“We have to look at games four and five and be proud of the way we played, but we also have to look at game three and learn from that. Stuff like that just can’t happen. We can’t be out on the court and quit just because Hempstead goes on a roll,” said Megan Scherrman, the Bobcats’ head coach. “We have to find a way to side out and find a way to fight for every point. So there are games to learn from and there are games to look at and know that we did what we needed to do out there.”

The Bobcats (10-7) flexed their muscles in the first set jumping out to a quick 8-1 lead as they managed to keep Corinne Meyer, the Mustangs number one explosive threat, stuck in the back row. After a side out, Meyer found herself in the front row causing problems for the visitors. A block by Meyer got the Mustangs (11-1-1) back to within one at 8-7, but they would never threaten again because the Bobcats countered with a seven-point run of their own to retake command of game one at 16-7 as they cruised to a convincing 25-15 win in the opening game.

It was a much closer battle in the second game with the Bobcats once again jumping out to an early lead, 4-1, but when Hempstead finally tied the game at 7-7 it was a back and forth fight with the Mustangs taking control after Libby Lansing’s kill gave Western Dubuque a 19-18. The Mustangs would score six of the next seven points to be serving for the set up 24-20. The Bobcats fought off two set points thanks to kills by Lansing and Maddie Harris, but Hempstead pulled even taking the second game 25-22.

That’s when the wheels fell off the Bobcats. They stayed close in the early going, but after pulling to within one at 7-6 after a service error by Hempstead it was all Mustangs the rest of the way. On the strength of a 10-point run, the Mustangs won 18 of the last 22 points to easily take game three 25-10 and claim a 2-1 advantage in the match.

The Bobcats, ranked fifth in Class 4A, quickly ran off the court and huddled around Scherrman as they tried to regroup after their most lopsided loss in a game this season. During the timeout between games, the Bobcats were able to refocus and re-energize themselves as they took the court with something to prove.

It was a clash of the titans in the fourth set with neither side willing to back down from a challenge. Both teams were fighting to take control of the game, but neither team was able to get a lead larger than two points until the Bobcats managed to go up 18-15 after winning a long rally that included a key block of a spike attempt by Meyer. Lansing won a joust at the net to grab a 22-19 lead, but the Mustangs stormed right back to take a 23-22 lead. Back-to-back kills by Franny Heiberger gave the Bobcats an opportunity to serve for the set, but Meyer but a stop to that with a powerful kill from the back row to tie the game at 24-24. The Bobcats kept the pressure on with a kill by Lansing and a Mustang miscue gave Western Dubuque a well earned 26-24 victory.

When the ball hit the ground on the Mustangs’ side of the court to give the Bobcats the fourth set, the biggest smile on their side of the court was on the face of their head coach.

“After game three, I told them that wasn’t the team that I coach. I coach a team that fights for every point and a team who doesn’t give up,” said Scherman. “I challenged them to be that team and make the other team earn it against us. I was very happy to see them come out and do that in game four.”

The excitement wasn’t over as the match went to a fifth-set tiebreaker. Once again, a confident Western Dubuque squad jumped out to an early lead but could never get a lead bigger than two points. The last time the Bobcats held the lead was at 12-11 when Meg Belser recorded a roof kill off a spike attempt by Meyer. Hempstead, the eighth-ranked team in Class 5A, came right back to side out and Grace Daack wasted little time in serving up an ace to get to match point, 14-12. Besler blasted a kill to extend the match, but Meyer had the last swing of the night to take the fifth set 15-13 and claiming a hard-fought 3-2 over the Bobcats.

This was the Bobcats’ third five-set match of the season and they hold a record of 1-2 in those contests. The other loss was to Cedar Falls, the fourth-ranked team in Class 5A, on the opening night of the season.

WD’s leaders against Hempstead were: kills — Harris 19, Besler 17, Heiberger seven, Lansing six, Madison Maahs three; assists — Maahs 49, Ella Meyer two; digs — Meyer 22, Maahs 13, Harris 12, Heiberger and Natalie Ulrichs 10 each, Besler six, Maci Steffen four; blocks — Steffen five, Belser and Lansing two each, Harris and Heiberger one each; serves — Steffen 12-of-12, Meyer 17-of-18, Harris 16-of-17; aces — Harris four, Heiberger and Meyer two each, Maahs one.