Regina’s young volleyball team rallied from a 2-0 deficit but just couldn’t close the deal Wednesday night in a playoff volleyball opener against Iowa Valley.
The Tigers defeated the Regals 25-21, 25-23, 12-25, 23-25, 15-6 in the Regals’ gym.
The match had the usual share of crazy momentum shifts that are common yet inexplicable in volleyball.
Regina seemed to own the first set leading 19-11 but then scored only two points while the Tigers ran off 14.
“It’s been happening all season,” Regina outside hitter Tori Owens said. “We get down on ourselves. Like one little thing will set us off.”
“You know, I think we just played complacent,” Regina coach Megan Streb said of the letdown. “We stopped playing with the killer instinct that we came out with in the beginning.”
In the second set, Regina led 19-16 and 21-19 but couldn’t hold off the Tigers’ front line of Natalie Demmel and Jackie Kriegel.
“We’ve played from behind a lot,” Demmel said. “I guess we all just dug down really deep and fought back and worked together. Our back row was really off the start of the first and second game but then we pulled our heads out and got better.”
Demmel was very difficult to stop most of the night whether she was firing cross court kills on knocking it down the line.
“The left back person follows me in and tells me which way to go so I don’t hit the block,” Demmel said.
“We knew their outsides were going to be a challenge,” Owens said.
Down 2-0 in sets, the Regals had to regroup and they did. Freshman libero Mac Conlon served five consecutive points as the Regals got out to a 7-1 lead.
“My serving has been my biggest struggle, so that was what I was focusing on,” Conlon said.
“She’s really grown throughout the season in volleyball and as a person,” Streb said. “She’s become stronger and worked hard to get to where she is.”
This time the Regals didn’t let the lead go. Owens had three consecutive aces halfway through the set, part of a 5-0 run that bumped the lead to 17-7. They were on their way.
“Our energy level (was higher), we were talking,” Owens said.
“They found their heart; they found the fire that we’ve seen multiple times throughout the year when they wanted it,” Streb said. “They came together as a team, and they really took it to them that third game. Credit the seniors. They really came out, and they really wanted it. You could see it in their eyes. You could see it in their play.”
In the fourth set, the Regals had to overcome a 15-9 deficit and again did so on Conlon’s service, scoring five straight points to tie the game at 15. She had two aces and Jordyn Lehman had two kills in the run. Regina led 23-18, but Iowa Valley rallied to tie it at 23 when Regina committed five consecutive errors. But kills by Owens and Jocelyn Meade ended the set and sent the teams to a fifth.
“I wanted to win and I knew the seniors and everyone on that floor wanted it,” Owens said.
The plucky Regals were not able to maintain their momentum in the fifth set. They got within 7-6, but then Iowa Valley scored the final eight points on five kills and three mistakes.
Iowa Valley plays at West Branch in a quarterfinal at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
It was an odd year for Regina with Streb being hired barely before the season began, but the Regals tried to make the most of it.
“I’ve said it all along that this team is such a hard-working team and they’ve accomplished something that not every team can by coming into the season the week before with a new coach, a new system — we’ve changed the system multiple times throughout the season — and they’ve accepted it and they’ve played their hearts out,” Streb said.