Two weeks before what could be a conference championship clash with Bondurant-Farrar the Carroll High volleyball team was almost out of fresh ideas.
Since the Oct. 8 game was the dedicated pink-out game, the Tigers wanted something to do for the game, rather than just put up a few pink streamers and wear pink uniforms. In the two weeks before the battle for the lead of the conference the Tigers learned just how far they could go.
They proved it again during the five-set thriller with Bondurant-Farrar on Tuesday night.
An idea was brought to the team that they make T-shirts to celebrate the game. Not only would they make and sell the T-shirts, they would then donate all the money they raised to St. Anthony’s new cancer center.
Time was definitely working against them. A T-shirt design was made and then a first set of orders were sent out. Then a second set were needed.
In just 14 days it seemed like everyone associated with Carroll High volleyball had a pink-out shirt.
Before Tuesday’s conference clash, an almost de-facto Raccoon River Conference championship game, the Tigers were able to hold a special check ceremony announcing how much money they raised. Despite the time crunch, Carroll’s volleyball team was able to donate more than $1,700 to St. Anthony’s.
During the game the Tigers seemed to take inspiration from their T-shirt side business in a 3-2 victory over the Bluejays.
Late in the second set the Tigers trailed 24-22, and were at risk of falling behind 0-2 in the match. Once again time was working against the Tigers.
Once again, they came together and made something happen despite the circumstances they faced.
“I told them they need to come together,” said Carroll High head coach, Kelli Schulz after the match. “They need to show that fight to win, that fight for each other. I know we have it. You could see how it just clicked for them. It just came together and clicked for them and you could see that.”
Bondurant-Farrar held the serve, but a quick block gave Carroll the point.
They trailed 24-23 now, and couldn’t afford any more mistakes. Rylee Ludwig had the serve, and she didn’t make any. Instead it was Bondurant-Farrar that made a mistake on the serve, bumping it too far out of play, and allowing Carroll to tie the match at 24.
The next Ludwig serve lofted over the net. Bondurant-Farrar, the scrappy team that they are, set up a hot-handed spike attempt, but the Tigers backed up a step to dig out the ball.
Carroll set up their play and were able to send a fast ball down the line.
Bondurant-Farrar dug out the ball again and set up their own play. This time, the Carroll blockers didn’t back up for a dig, they stared down Bondurant-Farrar’s leading killer Kendall Anderson, and challenged her at the net.
Anderson’s kill dipped too quickly and ate the top of the net. Point Carroll. They led 25-24 and needed one more to even the match.
“I just wanted the girls to keep playing their match,” Schulz said. “We wanted them to keep swinging. They did and the girls just found the holes in the Bondurant-Farrar defense.”
The next point was quick as Bondurant-Farrar returned the serve, but then blocked a Carroll spike out of bounds. With that Carroll took the second set win 26-24.
In the second set alone there were 11 ties and five lead changes.
The third set would one-up the fourth.
“Winning that set gave us the fire to keep fighting,” Schulz said. “We just don’t give up, we don’t fold, we’re going to fight back.”
Carroll would have to fight back in the third set.
After trailing 21-18 the Tigers went on a three point run, but still trailed the match 21-20. Bondurant-Farrar slowed the momentum by calling a timeout and gaining a 22-20 lead. Carroll fought back to tie the match at 22. The Bluejays answered with another point. Carroll fought their way to the next point.
The third set became locked at 23, the ninth tie of the set. Then an ace by Carroll gave them the lead, the fifth lead change of the set.
As it turned out, that would be the last lead change too.
Although Bondurant-Farrar tied the set at 24, the tenth tie of the set, Carroll earned a side out off a kill, and then finished off the set when senior Emma Perkins half blocked, half spiked a ball straight down on the B-F side of the net.
Now Carroll had their first lead in the match, 2-1 following the 26-24 third set win.
Winning at least a share of the conference is never easy though, and that was proven in the fourth set. Carroll started with a 6-2 lead. Bondurant-Farrar would eventually come back, and tie the match at 21 all. From there both teams battled to tied points at 23, but the Bluejays scored back-to-back points to take the fourth set.
That brought out the fifth set. Which would create heart conditions for either team.
“I knew that Bondurant-Farrar would fight back,” Schulz said. “They are a good team, and on paper we might be pretty close. So I knew this match was going to go back and fourth. They are scrappy and athletic, who won’t let the ball drop. But we feel like we are like that too.”
Carroll – perhaps feeding off the energy from the massive student section which hollered and cheered throughout the nearly two-hour match – fed off the energy the crowd brought. They scored eight of the first 10 points in the fifth set. Then the Tigers rallied to score 13 of the first 17 points.
The race to 15 seemed to be one sided as Carroll was running away with the match.
Then what Carroll didn’t want to see happened.
“Before the fifth set the girls said, ‘we can’t let (B-F) get on a run,’” Schulz said.
The Bluejays found a sliver of momentum in the fifth set, closing the gap first 7-14. Then 10-14.
Schulz was forced to take a timeout. However the timeout may have been a chance for the Tigers to refocus in the fifth. Throughout the previous four sets whenever Carroll took a timeout they scored the next point.
Although it was a nail biter. Both teams tried to get their hitters going, but the back row dug out the rifled shots. Then came the moment when it all came together. Carroll was forced to give a free ball to B-F. They set up the attack.
On the other side of the net was Kennedy Lein, ready for the block. She jumped at the same moment as her Bondurant-Farrar hitter. As Lein extended her arms upward the B-F hitter swung her fist forward.
She hit the ball square on.
But an inch too high.
The ball immediately sank into the net, and then rolled to the floor.
Carroll had fought back and won, clinching their first piece of a conference championship since winning back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015.
There’s still one more match for Carroll before they can claim sole possession of the RRC crown. Next week they take on Winterset in their final RRC match.
“We still have work to do with Winterset,” Schulz said. “We don’t like to share.”
Two weeks ago the Carroll volleyball team realized how much they could do when they worked towards a common goal of creating a t-shirt. On Tuesday the team worked towards the common goal of winning a conference title.
Mission accomplished on both ends.