After playing a near-flawless fourth set Tuesday against Holy Innocents’ in the second round of the Class AA/A state tournament, Walker came out shaky in the fifth. A couple of early hitting errors, combined with Holy Innocents’ more aggressive play at the net, put the Lady Wolverines in a bind.
Despite making a comeback in the end of the fifth, Walker’s early troubles were too much to overcome, and it ended up on the losing end of a 25-20, 23-25, 25-23, 16-25, 15-13 decision at the Coles Athletic Center.
After trailing 13-7 in the fifth set, Walker (36-7) had a chance to tie it at 15-all with a couple of kill opportunities, but the Lady Wolverines played them too conservatively. Once Holy Innocents’ (26-11) got back on offense after a lengthy point, Iowa signee Anne Yanda won the match with her 20th kill.
“(Holy Innocents’) started being more aggressive again at the net (in the fifth set), and when we needed to step up, we got a little tentative,” Walker coach Karen Arndt said. “Instead of putting the ball away, we started being safe, and they took advantage of it.”
It wasn’t the way the Lady Wolverines wanted to go out after playing such a smart fourth set. Their passing was inconsistent in the first three sets, but they pulled it together in the fourth and reaped the benefits. They used their passing to wear out Holy Innocents’, and the Lady Bears appeared fatigued when the match was tied at 2-all.
But Holy Innocents’ still had fuel left in the tank in the fifth and used it to throw the Lady Wolverines off balance.
The Lady Bears went back to how they played in their first set, when they ran the floor against Walker, and the Lady Wolverines didn’t adjust until it was too late.
“We didn’t play very hard until the fifth set but I was proud with the way we fought at the end,” Holy Innocents’ coach Taylor Noland said. “We came out strong from the get-go. We were passing a lot better than we have in the rest of the match. Walker fought back, but in the end, we didn’t give up. We didn’t roll over.”
Things went nicely for Walker when it jumped to a 3-1 lead. Holy Innocents’ battled back to tie at 3-all before Walker took its last lead of the match on a Lady Bears miscue.
The Lady Wolverines’ play then began to unravel.
A first-ball kill by Holy Innocents’ tied the match at 4-all before the Lady Bears took the lead on a two-handed dump by setter Caroline Keenan. Then Walker hurt itself with back-to-back hitting errors and trailed 7-4.
Walker wasn’t quite the same afterward. Holy Innocents’ raised both its aggressive play and the lead, and Walker didn’t have an answer until it trailed 13-7.
Walker’s urgent run began when Paige Warner hit a kill to put her team on serve.
Then Brielle Bowerman made a service run, and back-to-back kills by Warner cut the Holy Innocents’ lead to 13-11. Then an aggressive service miss by Bowerman gave Holy Innocents’ three match points, and Walker saved two of them when the Lady Bears were called with a double hit and Madison Smith came through with a kill on the outside.
Freshman Brooke Warner led the Lady Wolverines with 20 kills, with Paige Warner adding 13. Madison Smith was also in double-digit kills with 10, and Brianna Reid added nine.
Jessica Taylor dished out 33 assists and Katie Prather added 16. Both were at their best in the fourth set.