BRUSSELS — The Iowa–Grant varsity volleyball team got off to a fantastic start to the season by winning the eight-team Southern Door Invitational.
The Panthers went 6–1 in the tournament and tied both Hilbert and Gibraltar with identical records, but coach Marla Simon’s team was declared the tournament champion based on their set winning percentage of .867.
Simon’s club won 13 of the 15 sets it played, only losing 2–1 to Gibraltar (19–25, 25–21, 9–15) in the final match of the round-round tournament.
The Panthers won their first six matches all 2–0, defeating Sevastopol 27–25, 25–20, Southern Door 26–24, 25–16, Wausaukee 25–16, 25–18, Sturgeon Bay 25–17, 25–22), Hilbert 25–20, 25–22 and Algoma 25–15, 25–15.
Hilbert defeated Gibraltar 2–1 to force the three-way tie for first at 6–1.
“It was a very pleasant surprise to win the tourney,” said coach Simon. “I was hoping for a winning record on the day, but this was even better. Beating everyone in two sets, was definitely helpful, with the seven-match day we had two play. Dropping the last one to Gibraltar was kind of disappointing, but just too many mistakes in serving and hitting. Overall I was very happy with what we did.”
Junior outside hitter Emma Liddicoat powered the Panther offense with a team-high 52 kills in seven matches. She also had 11 digs. Junior setter Taylor Liddicoat passed out 84 assists, finished second on the team with 23 kills and served up 10 aces.
Junior Hannah Stevens finished the tournament with 14 kills and 15 digs. Senior middle hitter Mariah Ginter chipped in with 13 kills and eight blocks. Senior Haley Yelinek made a team-high 25 digs in her varsity debut as the libero. Senior Kristin Bingham served a team-high 12 aces.
“Emma Liddicoat had a great day leading our attack with Taylor Liddicoat fueling that offense with her 84 assists,” said Simon. “We did a great job playing defense behind the block and for the most part had really consistent serving, except v. Gibraltar.”
Simon specifically mentioned the serving efforts of Bingham and Ginter.
“Beating Hilbert was a definite highlight, since they were a state qualifying team last year in Division 4 and returned some of their very good players,” added Simon. “The girls were pretty excited to beat them in two sets. Overall, it was a great team-bonding trip for the girls. Besides winning the tourney, the girls also got to paddle board and zipline as a team.”
Iowa–Grant (6–1) will have a 13-day break between matches. The Panthers will open conference play Tuesday at Darlington before hosting SWAL favorite Cuba City in their home opener on Thursday, Sept. 10.
Southern Door Invitational
(from Wednesday, Aug. 26 @ Brussels)
Standings — Iowa–Grant 6–1, Hilbert 6–1, Gibraltar 6–1, Southern Door 4–3, Algoma 3–4, Sturgeon Bay 2–5, Sevastopol 1–6, Wausaukee 0–7.
Iowa–Grant match scores
Iowa–Grant def. Sevastopl 27–25, 25–20
Iowa–Grant def. Southern Door 26–24, 25–16
Iowa–Grant def. Wausaukee 25–16, 25–18
Iowa–Grant def. Sturgeon Bay 25–17, 25–22
Iowa–Grant def. Hilbert 25–20, 25–22
Iowa–Grant def. Algoma 25–15, 25–15
Gilbraltar def. Iowa–Grant 25–19, 21–25, 15–9
Iowa–Grant stat leaders
Kills: Emma Liddicoat 52, Taylor Liddicoat 23, Hannah Stevens 14, Mariah Ginter 13. Blocks: Ginter 8, Elana Winders 3. Assists: Taylor Liddicoat 84. Aces: Kristin Bingham 12, Ginter 10, T. Liddicoat 10, Jess Pluemer 8. Digs: Haley Yelinek 25, Hannah Stevens 15, T. Liddicoat 14, E. Liddicoat 11.