CEDAR RAPIDS – It didn’t always get the respect it deserved. For most of the match, the loudest cheers came from Court 1. Even a 59 point second set, that saw 20 ties and 10 lead changes drew minimal applause from Dubuque Hempstead and Bettendorf’s student sections.
Then came the fifth. Each section claimed their belief that wins would follow. Each stood throughout and hung on every point, until the final knockout punch that came via a block.
Dubuque Hempstead’s Audrey Reeg threw haymakers all afternoon, but in the fourth and fifth sets, the Bulldogs but up a Floyd Mayweather like defense. And went it matter most, Bettendorf countered for the win. Reeg went for the kill to keep her team alive in the fifth, but Hannah Matt and Anna Willey stuffed the attempt as it landed on the Hempstead side of the court. It gave the Bulldogs a 3-2 win.
“Well I did a little different matchup,” Bettendorf head coach Diane Lichtenberg said. “What we were doing really wasn’t working. So I just kind of flipped my lineup a little bit to see if we could block against here.”
The flipped worked. In the fourth set, Reeg had seven of the first 14 Hempstead points, but was silenced after. She had four of Hempstead’s first nine points in the fifth. The Bulldogs’ defense down the lines took Reeg out of her comfort zone.
“When they did that it really just brought my moment down a little bit,” Reeg said. “I felt like where should I hit this time? They got me thinking, so it was smart on their part. I give them props for that.”
The Bulldogs big puncher also emerged later in the match. Caitlin Wernentin began to take over the match in the fourth and fifth sets with her team down. Wernentin had three kills in the final set. She also tallied three kills late in the fourth to pull the Bulldogs away from the Mustangs. She had six overall in the fourth set that forced a fifth.
“We were worried but we didn’t get down,” Wernentin said. “It only gives us more motivation to get up and do what we can.”
Bittendorf faced deficits in each set it won. It was down one set to none and two sets to one, but managed to come back to advance to the Day two of the states.
“It shows Just the mental toughness,” Lichtenberg said. “And we try to work on those situations in practice and match situations.”