The night began with HIllcrest Academy’s volleyball team winning its first set of the year.
Then, the Ravens won a second.
Grace Miller, a junior, hugged teammates on her way toward the bench between sets, smiling all the way.
Drama filled the gym at Hillcrest when the Ravens and Lone Tree Lions met this past Thursday night.
HIllcrest, led by first-year coach Taylor Kurtz, was seeking its first win in a volleyball match since October 16, 2018. Since then, the Ravens had lost 31 straight matches.
The Lions were battling a winless streak of their own. A year after losing 16 of their last 18 matches, they had lost their first six matches this year.
At Hillcrest, the Lions were in a tough spot. They had lost the first two sets by scores of 25-20 and 25-13. Attempted spikes turned into blocks. Multiple shots hit the ceiling of the gym and bounced back to the floor.
The Lions roared back for a reverse sweep following a motivational talk by coach Lora Sieverding. They scored a dramatic 29-27 win in the third set to deny Hillcrest its magical moment, a set called “a comeback for the ages” by Sieverding.
A 25-21 Lone Tree win in the fourth set forced a fifth, and deciding, set.
“The Lady Lions came out on fire,” Sieverding said.
Lone Tree won the final set, 16-14, ending an exhausting and emotional night for both teams.
“Lots of respect to Hillcrest, who continued in the battle and never gave up,” Sieverding said. “Lots of hustle and heart on both sides of the court.”
Skylar Smith, a Lone Tree senior, had a match-best 10 aces along with 5 kills. Kylie Patterson, a junior, had a team-high 10 kills and a block. The Lions totaled a season-best 35 kills.
Kayla Dautremont, a junior, had a match-high 16 assists along with 6 kills.
“Kayla is our main setter and is doing a nice job of finding holes on the opponent’s side,” Sieverding said.
Riley Krueger, a promising sophomore, added 6 kills.
Sieverding also credited junior libero Alyssa Knock.
“She stepped up big, making some great hustle plays and really taking control of the defense and court coverage,” Sieverding said. “The Hillcrest gym is difficult to play in due to the low ceiling and she did a fabulous job of controlling the ball and getting passes to our setter.”
Sophie Marshall led Hillcrest with 12 kills. Esther Hughes add 10 kills. Malia Sedlacek had a team-high four aces from the serving line and Marshall had three.
It was the first five-set match of the season for the Ravens, who have just one sub available.
The Ravens face a tall order Thursday, when they host Class 1A power Mediapolis. The Bulldogs won 41 matches last year, but dropped their first four matches this season.
Lone Tree followed up their win at Hillcrest with three victories in four matches on Saturday in the Midland Tournament.
The Lions defeated Morningstar Academy, Midland and Calamus-Wheatland, and were swept by Central City in two sets at the Midland Tournament this past Saturday.
Krueger led the Lions with 14 kills in the four matches, including five against both Midland and Calamus-Wheatland. Patterson had 13 kills and four blocks.
Dautremont had 23 assists, including 10 against Midland. She also had eight kills.
Smith had 10 kills and a team-high 10 aces from the serving line.
Lone Tree won its match against Midland with a 15-10 victory in the third set and defeated Calamus-Wheatland with a 15-11 win in the third set. The Lions swept Midland.
Central City, which swept all three teams in the tournament to push its winning streak to seven, topped Lone Tree by scores of 21-11 and 21-9.
The Lions (2-7) host Louisa-Muscatine (1-0) at 7 p.m. Thursday.