STERLING – After a 12-0 start to the season, Sterling was sitting pretty. Things have gotten a bit bumpy since.
The Golden Warriors have gone 7-4 in their last 11 matches, including their 4-1 run Saturday at the Sterling Invitational at the Westwood Sports Complex that earned them third place.
Sterling (19-4) swept its three pool-play matches against Bureau Valley, Pecatonica and Peoria Christian before falling to Metamora 17-20, 20-17, 15-10 in the semifinals. Metamora (19-4) reached the Class 3A Sweet 16 last season.
The Warriors bounced back to beat Wethersfield 25-23, 25-11 in the gold bracket’s third-place match.
“It’s not what we wanted, but I guess we have to settle for it,” said Sterling senior Kiarra Harris, who piled up 10 kills and five blocks in the third-place match. “I feel like we could have given more against Metamora. We just got tired and didn’t want to push anymore, and gave up. We need to expect more of ourselves and not go halfway.”
“If we pushed a little more, we could have gotten it,” said Warriors freshman Kaylee Martin, who had nine kills against Wethersfield. “We have our ups and downs, but I’m positive that we’re a good enough team to end up on top.”
In the third-place match, three blocks and two kills from Harris propelled the Warriors to a 9-4 start. Wethersfield (16-5) bounced back to take the lead and was up 14-13 before an 8-0 Sterling tear.
The burst included two kills apiece by Harris and Gabby Sandoval and an ace by Martin, giving the Warriors a 21-14 advantage.
Wethersfield closed within a point twice, the latter instance at 24-23, before a Martin kill secured the win.
Sterling lost the first point of Set 2. That was its only deficit in the set. The Warriors jumped in front 6-2, thanks to two kills and an ace from Martin, a pair of aces by Taylor Hendrix and a kill from Harris.
The Flying Geese pulled even twice. With the score 8-all, Sterling closed the match with a 17-3 blitz, including 11 straight points to finish.
“I’m content with third place, but thought we could have been playing for first,” Warriors coach Dale Dykeman said. “We’re having some inconsistencies, and that was evident today. The competition’s gotten much better the last 10 games. We’ve seen some really good teams. That’s the competition we want to see going into the postseason.”
Dakota has been unbeatable all season, and was again Saturday. The Indians (29-0) defeated Metamora in three sets in the championship. Dakota was the Class 1A state champ in 2011 and the 2A runner-up in 2012.
Dixon went 2-1 in pool play before finishing as the silver bracket runner-up. Newman took third in the silver bracket.
Bureau Valley was 1-2 in pool play, then won the bronze bracket. Morrison downed Prophetstown for third in the bronze bracket.
Sterling: 3-0 in pool play, third place in gold bracket
Dixon: 2-1 in pool play, runner-up in silver bracket
Newman: 1-2 in pool play, third place in silver bracket
Bureau Valley: 1-2 in pool play, won bronze bracket
Morrison: 1-2 in pool play, third place in bronze bracket
Prophetstown: 1-2 in pool play, fourth place in bronze bracket