STERLING – The Golden Warriors got everything working well right from the get-go Tuesday night, and played from a comfortable lead in both sets of a 25-11, 25-14 victory over Geneseo at Musgrove Fieldhouse.
The win kept Sterling (22-5, 10-2) in a tie with Moline in the loss column atop the Western Big 6 standings, and knocked the Maple Leafs (19-5, 11-3) out of what had been a three-way tie for the lead.
“I think we were all excited to get to play with each other again, and just in a conference match knowing that we’re tied for the lead,” hitter Brook Borum said. “We just decided to come out and show them our full strength. We were excited to just go out there and play as a team, because I think we all missed playing together.”
With the Warriors getting back to full strength for the first time all season at their own tournament on Saturday, this was the first league match with their full complement of weapons.
And they were all at the top of their game in this one.
“We were communicating really well, and we just came out with a fire that we haven’t seen as much this year,” setter Bree Borum said. “The fire was definitely there tonight, and we were just playing really good volleyball. Geneseo is a good team, but we just came out and we really were playing like we should every game.”
After four kills by Brook Borum and two more by twin sister Bree, Sterling led 9-2 in the first set. Grace Gould smacked a pair of kills a few points later, then served an ace after Bree smashed a kill on the second touch off a perfect pass form libero Lexi Rodriguez for15-7 lead.
“It’s just trust,” Rodriguez said. “Everyone’s back, so we’re really coming together, getting to our strongest point of the season. Everyone knows their responsibilities and does their jobs on the court, and it just makes the flow of the game look better, and everyone feels good about what they’re doing on the court.”
Grace Egan stuffed a block and then Brook Borum set Bree for another second-touch kill, and Brook had two more kills in the next four points – the second on an assist by Grace Gould – for a 21-9 lead. A Bree Borum block and a Brook Borum kill closed out the first set.
The second set as more of the same. Egan and Brook Borum had kills, then Rodriguez served an ace for a 3-1 lead. Two more Brook kills, three aces from Bree, and a Kierra Collins block stretched that lead to 13-2.
“We definitely like getting those early runs and coming out strong,” Bree Borum said, “because then it gets us to where every point is not game-defining, and we can kind of relax and forget about the score and play our game.”
Kills by Egan and Macie Gebhardt stopped a Geneseo run after Sterling started subbing in new players, and a block and a kill by Bree Borum made it 22-11. The teams traded points over the final six, with Bree Borum setting Brook Borum, Collins and Egan for kills.
“It’s such a big deal knowing I can set any of them and trust them to get a kill or get it over and in, just be smart with it. It really helps my job be a lot easier, and I feel like everyone on the court is a lot more comfortable knowing that we have trust in all our hitters,” Bree Borum said. “It definitely makes it harder to keep everybody happy all the time, but I just try to go by where the ball is passed and who I know is going to be ready. I just try to give everyone chances.”
The Warriors had 25 kills to the Leafs’ 12, and also served 28 points to Geneseo’s five. The Leafs managed just three instances all match where they strung together consecutive points.
“I think we’re a really good defensive and passing team; I just think that’s one of our strengths, and it was really on tonight,” Brook Borum said. “We work on it all the time in practice, have the other side serve it at us. And Lexi, is the best, my gosh.”
Brook Borum finished with 13 kills, and Bree Borum stuffed the stat sheet with 17 assists, five kills, two blocks, 10 points and three aces. Rodriguez finished with 22 digs, 10 points and six assists, and Egan added three kills, a block, six points and 11 digs. Gould chipped in two kills and 10 digs, and Collins and Gebhardt each spiked a kill, with Collins adding a block.
In all, six different Sterling players had kills, and four different Warriors set for assists.
“I think it’s very good that we don’t have to rely so much in just one person, and that we can spread it out,” Rodriguez said. “It makes other teams think more, makes them guess a little bit, and it lessens the load for all of our hitters. You know that other teammates are going to do their jobs, so you don’t have to do as much, and you can just worry about your own game and how you can contribute.”
“We have so many girls that can hit, roll shot, kill the ball, dump the line if they need to," Brook Borum added. “We have so many different hitters that we can mix up the sets no matter who’s on the court, no matter where they are on the court. I think it’s going to be really dangerous for other teams.”
Cadence Talbert and Abigail Barickman each had three kills for Geneseo, with Talbert stuffing a block and Barickman serving four points. Adaleen Dunker had eight assists, and Cora Varland and Brenna McGuire each added two kills.
Sterling def. Geneseo 25-11, 25-14
Star of the match: Bree Borum, Sterling, 17 assists, 5 kills, 2 blocks, 10 points, 3 aces
Key performers: Brook Borum, Sterling, 13 kills; Lexi Rodriguez, Sterling, 22 digs, 10 points, 1 ace, 6 assists; Grace Egan, Sterling, 3 kills, 1 block, 6 points, 11 digs; Cadence Talbert, Geneseo, 3 kils, 1 block; Abigail Barickman, Geneseo, 3 kills, 4 points
Up next: United Township at Sterling, 6 p.m. Thursday