Both teams came out flying Thursday. No more than three points ever separated Gehlen (18-10, 8-2) and Hinton (26-4, 9-1) in the first set.
Hinton's Kasey Reuter hit a kill that was followed by an ace to give Hinton a 22-19 lead late in the opening game. The Blackhawks earned game point at 24-22 off of a block by Tori Bishop.
Gehlen answered with a kill by Morgan Whitehead. The Jays won the next point to tie the score at 24-24.
The next point saw the longest rally of the set, which included numerous diving digs by members of both squads. Gehlen won the point to earn game point, but a wide serve tied the score at 25-25.
A kill by Hannah Kessenich gave Gehlen another set point and a hitting error by Hinton handed Gehlen the first set 27-25.
The second set saw more ebbs and flows than the opening set. An ace serve by Baily Wiltgen put Gehlen ahead 4-1 earlier, but Hinton won seven of the next points. The Blackhawks led by one or two points for much of the middle of the set. Gehlen finally drew level again at 20-20 on a Hinton hitting error.
Hinton won the next four points for a second chance to win a set, but Gehlen ended the run with a point at 24-21. Sadie Shuck closed the set with a kill off of a set by Ashley Eaton for Hinton to win 25-21. Eaton finished the match with 54 assists.
"She did really well," Hinton head coach Kate Ortegren said of Eaton. "She made some really good choices. When she jumped-set, the blockers would always go with her and it really opened up our hitters."
The third set nearly mimicked the second set. Gehlen jumped out to a 7-2 lead, with both Gehlen's Katelin Langel and Hinton's Reuter hitting two of the match's strongest kills early in the set. Langel led the Jays with 16 kills.
"Katelin had an excellent match and our middle hitters, Kessenich and Whitehead, showed a lot of improvement," said Gehlen head coach Mike Meyer. "Our left side hitters struggled to get off solid swings ,but I think we'll be able to correct the problem. I was really pleased with our defensive effort."
Hinton called a timeout at 7-2. The Blackhawks battled back to within one point at 12-11 and finally tied the game at 16-16. The teams were tied again late in the set at 19-19. Gehlen called a timeout once Hinton led 22-20.
A kill by Shuck and an error by Gehlen moved Hinton to another set point at 24-20. A short serve by Hinton gave Gehlen one point, but Reuter closed out the set two points later at 25-22 when she tipped the ball over Gehlen's blockers.
"On game point or after a timeout, we'd miss a serve," Ortegren said. "Our serving was not as aggressive as it could have been because they were so worried about missing. So they were easing up a little bit."
The fourth game was more closely contested in the early going. The score was 11-11 before Hinton won eight straight points to make the score 19-11.
The eight points was the most scored consecutively by one team in the match. The eight point margin was also the largest of the match.
Reuter finally slowed Gehlen's momentum with a kill. Three key points by Hedlund allowed Hinton to pull away late to win the final set 25-19.
"It was a tough loss because our kids played so hard," Meyer said. "This was our finest effort for the last few weeks. Hinton is of course a very good team, and with a few less mistakes we might have pulled out a victory."
Hinton missed opportunities late in sets against Unity Christian two weeks ago and against Gehlen in the first set on Thursday, but the Blackhawks were more efficient in the final three sets.
"I think they just settled in," Ortegren said. "I think that emotion that they have, the noise -- it was just a different ball game.
"It's something that we need to learn because we don't have that with every team in our conference -- that high emotion of wanting to win and the crowd is going wild. They just need to be able to settle down and play our game."
Shuck was 18-for-19 serving with four aces. Tori Bishop made 21 digs. Libero Breana Bollmeyer and Hedlund each had 15 digs. Reuter finished with 13 digs.
Gehlen libero Shannon Smith made 31 digs. Smith was also 13-for-13 serving with two aces.
Langel added 21 digs. Kessenich made five blocks. Wiltgen, Alison Schnepf and Whitehead each made three blocks.
Emily Holtgrewe was 22-for-24 passing and Langel was 18-for-19.
"It's tough to go to Hinton and pull out a victory, but our kids gave it a good try," Meyer said. "Even with a loss, I think we can use this game to propel us toward an extended post-season."
Langel was also selected this week to participate in the Iowa Girls Coaches Association volleyball all-star game.
Both Gehlen and Hinton have byes in the first round of regional play, which begins next Tuesday. Gehlen will next play on Tuesday, Oct. 23 against the winner of the match between River Valley (3-29) and Kingsley-Pierson (7-19) in Class 1A Region 1. Hinton will face the winner of Tuesday's match between Lawton-Bronson (18-13) and Westwood (10-18) in Class 2A Region 2.