Still champs Iota rallies, wins district title

IOWA — Like last year’s matchup, Iota lost the first set to Iowa Thursday but rallied to win the next three to claim its second consecutive Division III, District 2 volleyball championship.

Iota won 24-26, 25-23, 25-18, 25-20 to extend its win streak to seven matches. The Bulldogs beat Iowa in a nondistrict match earlier in the season.

“After the first set they were not playing so well, but we came back and never gave up,” Iota head coach Meredith Hebert said of her team. “Playing against Iowa two times, it is very hard to come back and beat them a second time.

“I told them to be more consistent, to stop sending the ball over and hit the ball.”

The loss ended a three-game win streak for Iowa (17-18, 3-1), but Yellow Jackets head coach Grant Anderson said he is hoping his team can still get a top-10 seed when the playoff brackets are released on Monday.

“Had we won this game, it would have assured us a top-eight spot,” Anderson said. “Hopefully we will stick around the top 10 and get a home game.

“They are so up and down, but we can compete with the best of the best. We just have to get locked in and ready to play. I like our chances in round one and even in round two. They set a goal to get to (state), and I think we can still accomplish that.”

Iota (21-13, 4-0) jumped out to what looked like a commanding 8-1 lead in the first set behind two aces and a kill from Charly Sensat. But the Yellow Jackets slowly chipped away at the deficit, tying the set at 21-21 on an ace by Bentley Richard, who closed it out with a kill.

“In set one, we came out wanting to keep our composure,” Anderson said. “We could have got rattled.

“In past games we folded up and got drummed. We didn’t let that happen. We stayed poised, kept fighting and having the next-point mentality.”

Iowa started strong in the next three sets with leads of 5-2, 4-1 and 5-1, but couldn’t maintain pressure on the Bulldogs.

“We started off well,” Anderson said. “We just got a little separated.

“I tell our kids don’t play stupid, don’t play sloppy and don’t get separated — the three S’s. I thought we played smart all match, which I am very proud of. We made some smart shots and decisions throughout the match, and hopefully, that will help us next week in the playoffs.”

Sensat had a string of three kills in the second set and four in the fourth set to help the Bulldogs pull away. Sensat finished with 15 kills, and Chloe Bordelon added 18 kills. Leah Hebert had 36 assists.

“(Sensat) is probably one of my stronger hitters,” Hebert said. “She plays all the way around and our go-to.

“In a crunch, we need her.”

Richard (16 kills, 28 digs) and Ana Alexander (32 assists, 14 digs) had double-doubles for the Yellow Jackets, and Maddie Jongbloed added eight kills, 23 digs and three aces. Alivia Singletary had 21 digs.

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