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Polk County’s Grace Lauer hammers a kill past West Henderson’s block during Monday’s match

Sometimes, you gotta believe.

That’s the message that Molly Hill conveyed to her Polk County squad in the wake of Monday’s 3-1 loss to West Henderson in a matchup of area powers at Polk. The Falcons claimed a 25-21, 17-25, 25-20, 25-20 victory.

With the start of the state 1A playoffs quickly approaching, Hill is looking for consistent, confident play – exactly what Polk County delivered in an electric second set that evened the match.

The Wolverines were at their defensive best in the set, with Marissa Twitty controlling the middle of the court and Polk’s back line digging shot after shot. Sydney Waldman’s quick push across the net broke a 16-16 tie and began a run in which the Wolverines would score six straight points for a 22-16 lead.

Polk closed the set moments later and snapped West Henderson’s run of 21 consecutive winning sets dating back to Sept. 25.

Just as quickly as momentum flowed to Polk’s side, it flooded back to the Falcons. West raced to a 6-2 lead in the pivotal third set and never led by less than four points the rest of the set, the margin growing to nine before the Wolverines rallied late.

The fourth set was much closer, as Polk fought back from an early deficit with a five-point rally to take a 13-12 lead on a Marilyn Castillo ace. The teams were tied at 19 before West Henderson closed the set on a 6-1 run to take the match.

It was the third set, though, that remained on Hill’s mind.

“We tend to do that quite a bitm” she said. “We’ve talked about how in the third set we need to stay up and stay consistent. It’s just a confidence thing with the girls. It’s something we have to fix.

“We’ve hung in there with these bigger high schools. We’ve taken them to four and five sets. We just have to believe we can beat them.”

The first set proved a back-and-forth affair, the Wolverines (17-4) holding their own against a West Henderson (21-6) team ranked fourth in 3A in the latest MaxPreps Adjusted Rankings. Polk took a late two-point lead at 19-17 on a Castillo tip and still led 20-19 before West’s Bailey Lance had a pair of aces in a serving run that moved the Falcons to a 24-20 lead.

Kristen Hall’s kill kept Polk alive briefly before the Falcons closed the set.

The Wolverines, though, took the upper hand in the second set, sparked by its defensive play.

“I put Marissa in there and she shut the middle down,” Hill said. “We were really great on the net and the back row stepped up. We played smart, we played efficiently and we put balls down.

“That’s what I talked to them about after the match, about consistency. After the break, we need to play the third set like we played the second set, to be consistent.”

Lauer had 15 kills, with Kristen Hall finished with seven kills, 18 digs and four blocks. Twitty had four blocks as well with Castillo notching six kills and five digs.

Waldman finished with 30 assists and 11 digs, with Carolina Castillo recording 16 digs and Karla Olguin delivering 10 digs.

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