Akron-Westfield has off night, eliminated by Siouxland Christian

Tuesday, October 29, 2019
(Sentinel Photo By Allen Hamil) Akron-Westfield’s Jaden Harris and Natalie Nielsen go up for a block against Siouxland Christian in one of the only areas the Westerners had the advantage. Nielsen finished with eight blocks while Harris added four.

SIOUX CITY — Aside from the team’s blocking, nothing was really working for Akron-Westfield on Monday night. An all-around slump came at the worst possible time for the Westerners in the Class 1A regional quarterfinals against Siouxland Christian as they were eliminated from postseason contention in a sweep.

“We can play the best, look like professionals, looking like we’re going to go to state and then we can play games like this,” A-W Head Coach Robyn Van Eldik said. “Unfortunately, this was one of them, in the most important game. They’re a very good team, so I’d like to see Siouxland Christian go a long ways.”

The Westerners came into the match hitting .244 as a team for the season, the fifth-highest rate in Class 1A, but had just one more kill than errors against the Eagles. Siouxland Christian dropped in numerous ace serves throughout the night and even when the Westerners were able to corral the ball, their passing was off for much of the match. The team had some good serves of their own, but also had chances to string together multiple points stopped by untimely net serves.

“The nerves got the best of us,” Van Eldik said. “We didn’t come out to play. Our passing wasn’t good. We weren’t aggressive. Our blocking was great, but our hitting, not aggressive. We just could not put it together. I’d get after them and then was like, ‘let’s go have fun,’ and nothing was working. We just couldn’t quite get out of the holes.”

Siouxland Christian came out humming like a well-oiled machine scoring the first five points and nine of the first 10 which led to a timeout from the A-W bench. Ace serves from Sydney Seggerman and Riley Doenhoefer pulled the Eagles out in front 18-5 in what looked to be a quick first set.

(Sentinel Photo By Allen Hamil) At left, Akron-Westfield libero McKenna Henrich digs up an attack from Siouxland Christian. Henrich led the team with nine digs and had half of the team’s six ace serves.

A net serve from the Eagles followed by an ace for McKenna Henrich, one of her three in the match, started to turn the tide in favor of the Westerners. McKenna Van Eldik followed with a serving run which included an ace and the team got the block at the net to pull to within 21-16. The deficit just proved to be too much as Siouxland Christian closed out the set with a 25-20 win. Despite losing the first set, the Westerners hoped to use some of the momentum they gained later in the opening frame to come out stronger in the second.

“I felt that things were going our way,” Van Eldik said. “Our serving was pretty good, but their passing was really good. That’s going to take them a long ways.”

The Westerners did open the set with the first point, but an ace serve from Siouxland Christian libero Cassie Jones gave her team a 2-1 lead and they never trailed the rest of the way in a 25-18 second set. Van Eldik said Siouxland Christian’s serving kept her team off balance all night.

“I think our nerves got to us where we could not pass,” Van Eldik said. “We work on passing, we work on serve receive all the time. That’s probably the majority of our practice is passing, digging. It just didn’t come together tonight.”

Siouxland Christian had 12 aces as a team with Seggerman capturing half of those.

Despite another early deficit in the third as the Westerners gave up the first four points, Akron-Westfield had their best chance of the night to come away with a set. The Westerners fought back to an 8-8 tie off back-to-back four-hit violations from the Eagles and came back from a 12-8 deficit to tie the match at 13 apiece on a block from Natalie Nielsen, one of her team-best eight in the match. Setter Jaden Harris and McKenna Van Eldik added four blocks apiece.

The Westerners took the lead for just the second time all night as a Nielsen kill put the Westerners in front 16-15. It was one of five kills for Nielsen who tied with Van Eldik for most on the team. Kailee Tucker ended next with three kills. Siouxland Christian was led by Riley Doenhoefer with 19 kills on a .316 kill efficiency. Payton Doenhoefer was next with six kills, one more than Seggerman.

Unfortunately for A-W, the 16-15 lead would be short-lived as a service error knotted the game back up and Siouxland Christian added the next three points before an A-W timeout. A deflated Westerners team saw their season come to a close as Siouxland Christian earned a 25-19 win in the third.

Akron-Westfield finishes the season with a 17-8 record. The team graduates a large class of seniors whom Van Eldik has spent coaching for a long time.

“As far as the seniors go, I’ve been with them since they’ve been in fourth grade,” Van Eldik said. “It’s been a fun haul with them and I hate for a game like this to end their career, but hopefully they will remember the good memories that we’ve had throughout the time.”

Graduating seniors off the roster include McKenna Moats, Kailee Tucker, Melissa Meinen, Jaden Harris, Autumn Bundy, McKenna Van Eldik and Kayla Johnson.

Siouxland Christian improves to 23-11 on the season as they will play No. 12 Newell-Fonda (25-10) in Thursday’s regional semifinals.

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