(Underwood) -- With their backs against the wall, Underwood found a way on Tuesday night.
The KMAland 1A/2A No. 1 Eagles (9-2, 2-0) appeared to be on the way to their first Western Iowa Conference loss since last October. However, Zoe Rus caught fire, slammed in a flurry of winners and the Eagles overcame a 20-15 and 2-1 deficit to beat No. 3 Treynor (6-4, 1-1), 23-25, 25-21, 25-27, 25-22, 15-8.
“It’s always great as a coach to see your girls come out and fight like that,” Coach Paula Carman said. “We were kind of struggling and have been doing that lately. Everybody has been a little indecisive. It took us a little bit. I know it’s in there. We saw it tonight, and now we’ve got to keep focusing on that.”
The fourth set comeback was a turnabout for how the first and third sets played out. Treynor claimed both frames with late rallies, rattling off six of seven in the first and overcoming three set points in the third.
That momentum carried into the fourth with Treynor scoring nine of the first 13 and building a lead up to 19-14. That’s when Rus found her rhythm with kills on points 17, 18, 19, 23, 24 and 25.
“I just got an adrenaline rush,” Rus said. “I wanted to push and win, so I got a lot louder on and off the court. I think that really got the team up.”
Macy VanFossan topped the Eagles with 23 kills, 26 digs and three aces in her usual all-around brilliant performance. Peyton Cook passed out 50 assists and added 18 digs, and Rus managed 16 kills, 10 digs and four aces.
“Zoe came through really big in set four,” Carman said. “She came through with some big swings and some great accuracy at that time, and that’s exactly what we needed.”
“I just kept telling Peyton (Cook) to keep setting me,” Rus said. “I won’t stop until I get set. I just kept doing what I was doing over and over again.”
The Eagles also got strong contributions from Delaney Ambrose and Brianna Justsen, who had nine and seven kills, respectively, while combining for four kills and a block in the final frame. Justsen was a part of four of Underwood’s eight blocks on the night.
The fifth set was the most lopsided of the evening with the Eagles jumping to an 11-2 advantage and fending off one final charge from the Cardinals, which got no closer than six the rest of the way.
The victory completes the WIC two-step for Underwood, which beat the defending co-champions Tri-Center and Treynor in six-day span.
“Definitely a growth from where we were last year at this time,” Carman said. “We have our goals and our pacing we want to be at. Even though it wasn’t as pretty, even though we have struggled with ourselves the last week or so, we still got it done. And it was still a big win.’
Treynor was plenty impressive themselves on Tuesday. Madeline Lewis had 21 kills while Kailey Rochholz slammed in 16 winners. Emma Flathers ended the night with 45 assists, and Stella Umphreys finished with 37 digs for the Cardinals.
In the end, though, the Eagles reigned supreme. While the victory is plenty big, Coach Carman says they will continue to push on for perfection.
“I think it’s just going back to game film a little bit,” she said. “The girls know — that when we’re out there and give them reminders — they know. It’s kind of trying to get that feel. If we spend some time and break things down film-wise, we’ll get to see, and that’ll help process what we need to do fundamentally for ourselves.”
View complete video interviews with Coach Carman and with Rus linked below.