SOUTHERN DOOR — Iowa–Grant volleyball’s annual season-opening pilgrimage to Door County was rather successful this season.
Coach Marla Simon’s Panthers went 3–2 and placed second out of eight teams at last Wednesday’s eight-team Southern Door Invitational.
Both of I–G’s loss were to the champion Southern Door Eagles. The Panthers dropped a pool play match to the hosts early in the day, but battled back to earn a rematch in the championship game.
Iowa–Grant took the first set in the best-of-three title match 25–14, lost the second 25–21, then went back-and-forth in the decisive game before falling 23–21.
“What a battle that third set was,” said Simon. “Overall, it was a good start for our young team and really just missed the championship of the whole tourney by two points.”
The Panthers must replace seven seniors from last year’s 20–10 regional championship team, including first-team All-SWAL outside hitter Emma Liddicoat and All-SWAL setter Taylor Liddicoat, as well as honorable mention All-SWAL libero Maranda McCarthy.
So far, so good.
Senior outside hitter Katie Olson, who was also a first-team All-SWAL player a year ago, slammed 34 kills, scored 30 service points, including a team-high six aces, and had 13 digs in five matches to lead the Panthers.
Olson’s clutch serving and eight kills led I–G to a 25–17, 22–25, 15–13 victory over Sturgeon Bay in the opening match of the day.
The Panthers then rallied to defeat Valders 22–25, 25–14, 25–10 before suffering a 25–23, 25–27, 15–8 loss to Southern Door.
Olson served up 10 straight points, including four aces in the second set against Valders.
After a midway break, Iowa–Grant swept third-place finisher Sevastopol 25–22, 25–20 behind eight kills from Olson and five from sophomore Olivia Liddicoat.
In the championship match, Iowa–Grant’s strong serving and early hitting gave the Panthers an early lead, but Southern Door rallied.
“After dropping the second set we were in quite a fight in set three, as it went back and forth,” said Simon. “We were down 15–16 at one point and we had our chances with a few match points of our own. It could have went either way. It was a great match to watch, kind of stressful to coach but the kids played hard and that is all I can ask of them.”
Simon said junior setter Kendall Peterson, who passed out 96 assists and had five aces, did a pretty good job with setting for the tournament in her first varsity test.
“I felt our serving was very consistent and we really picked it up defensively and played well at the net,” added Simong.
Junior libero Hero Klosterman, a transfer from Southwestern, led the team with 22 digs and senior middle hitter Shae McIntyre led the team with 20 blocks.
McIntyre also had 16 kills. Liddicoat and sophomore Annie Spurley floored 18 kills apiece.
Iowa–Grant will open the conference season Thursday on the road at defending SWAL champion Mineral Point. The Pointers went 24–5 overall and 11–1 in league play a year ago.
Southern Door Invitational
(from Wednesday, Aug. 23 @ Middleton)
Championship Match: Southern Door def. Iowa–Grant 25-14, 21-25, 23-21
Third-place: Sevastopol def. Gibraltar 25-20, 25-22, 15-12.
Semifinals: Southern Door def. Gibraltar 25-19, 23-25, 15-10; Iowa–Grant def. Sevastopol 25–22, 25–20.
Iowa–Grant pool play match scores
Iowa–Grant def. Sturgeon Bay 25–17, 22–25, 15–13
Iowa–Grant def. Valders 22–25, 25–14, 25–10
Southern Door def. Iowa–Grant 25–23, 25–27, 15–8
Pool A: Sevastopol 3–0, Gibraltar 2–1, Lormira 1–2, Wausaukee 0–3.
Pool B: Southern Door 3–0, Iowa–Grant 2–1, Valders 1–2, Sturgeon Bay 0–3.
Iowa–Grant stat leaders
Kills: Katie Olson 34, Olivia Liddicoat 18, Annie Spurley 18, Shea McIntyre 16. Blocks: McIntyre 20, Liddicoat 11, Spurley 8. Assists: Kendall Peterson 94. Aces: Olson 6, McIntyre 5, Liddicoat 5, Peterson 5. Digs: Herolyn Klosterman 22, Olson 13, Liddicoat 10.