Delaney Esterling, Lewis Central.jpg

(Council Bluffs) -- The Lewis Central senior class had posted 106 wins entering Tuesday night. Among those were victories in regional finals, at state tournaments and against every Hawkeye Ten foe. Except for one.

With their 107th career victory, the Titans senior class of 2020 can finally add Kuemper to that list.

KMAland 3A/4A/5A No. 4 Lewis Central took a 25-16, 26-28, 25-3, 25-22 win over the KMAland No. 2 Knights on Tuesday in a match heard on KMA 960.

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“It was really fun,” senior Delaney Esterling told KMA Sports. “We’d never beat them since I’ve been here, so we were waiting for this.”

The Titans (23-4, 6-1) had 16 aces, 11 blocks and contributions from everywhere in a win that puts them in position to claim at least a share of the Hawkeye Ten championship.

“I really thought our team played extremely well,” Coach Mike Bond said. “I thought offense and defense were excellent on our part, and the other thing is that, really, everybody contributed tonight.”

Senior Megan Witte led with 20 kills while classmate Delaney Esterling pitched in nine kills and eight aces.

Junior Madisyn Havermann had three aces, four kills and six blocks, and senior Natalie Driver passed out 24 assists.

The contributions didn’t stop there, though, with senior Presley Rodenburg providing four kills and three aces, senior Rachel Cushing flying all over the court with countless digs and great role-filling work from Lauren Payne, Karly Brown, Macy Mulder and Maddie Bergman.

“We went through phases where everybody went on streaks,” Bond said. “Our offense and our defense were picking each other up, and we were able to score points in a row. What a team effort.”

The Titans opened with 8 of the first 11 and mostly cruised to the first set win before locking in on a neck-and-neck battle in set two.

The teams shared 10 ties as Witte - a Northern Iowa recruit - and Drake commit Kara Peter answered each other swing for swing. Witte had 11 kills to Peter’s 10 in the frame, but it was Kuemper that fended off two LC set points and executed on their own second set point to steal the win.

As close as the second set proved to be, the third was the exact opposite. Esterling rolled off a 13-point run with four aces to open an insurmountable 15-1 lead before an unbelievable 22-point set win.

Fortunately for the fans in attendance, set four was more like the second. The teams again found plenty of ties - nine in all - before LC slivered their way to a tight advantage. From there it was just a matter of trading points, and it was an Esterling serve that appropriately ended the match.

“We felt that we needed to be really strong in the serving area to keep them out of system,” Bond said. “We felt if we could keep the ball out of system it would be tougher to get it to (Kara Peter). The fewer times she touches the ball, it’s just fine with me.”

“We just weren’t going for aces,” Esterling added. “We were trying to serve aggressive balls, and we’d been working on it all week in practice. It really paid off. You could see it tonight.”

The win was big for the senior class, which lost to Kuemper in 3 as sophomores, in 4 as juniors and in 5 as freshmen, but it was also big for the conference race.

The Titans are now even in the loss column with Kuemper and Red Oak - LC’s lone loss in the H-10.

“It sounds cliche, but we really look at it one game at a time,” Bond said. “We have Denison coming in on Thursday, so we’ll walk through the game plan and prepare for them. We can’t look ahead on anybody in this conference.”

Kuemper’s Peter had 18 kills while Anna Niehaus added 10 winners. Mariah Naberhaus and Ashlyn Badding added 17 assists each, and Mallory Badding had 35 digs.

View interviews with Coach Bond and Esterling below.