STERLING – There’s a reason why the Sterling volleyball players get excited when they go on big runs early in matches, and it’s more than just because they’re happy to be on their way to a win.
The other big reason is that it gives some less familiar faces the chance to get on the court and show their stuff.
The Golden Warriors used 14 different players in Thursday’s 25-9, 25-13 win over Stillman Valley, and the starters were cheering just as hard on the bench for the subs as the reserves normally do for them.
“It’s really fun playing on this team, and we’re all super-excited when we get in the lead and we all know that we might get the chance to get in,” setter Riley Dittmar said. “We like to take every opportunity that we can to perform on the court just as well as our starters. We’re always ready to go in, and it’s always so exciting. We really like the thrill of being able to play.”
With the first set tied 3-3, libero Lexi Rodriguez stepped to the service line. She had a pair of aces, and also set Brook Borum and Grace Egan for kills before a Bree Borum block on an overpass capped a 7-0 run as the Warriors took control.
After a kill and a block by Stillman’s Paige Meyer and a Sterling net violation cut the Sterling lead to 10-6, the teams traded errors to make it 11-7. Kills by Brook Borum and Kierra Collins made it 13-7, then a block by Macie Gebhardt a few points later sparked an 8-0 surge with Jordyn Bryant at the service line that saw a kill by Grace Gould and a combo block by Gebhardt and Gould for a 20-8 lead.
An Egan kill after a Stillman block sparked the set-ending run that also featured a kill by Bree Borum and a combo block from Gebhardt and Bree Borum.
“I think we’re just trying to take every opportunity that we get to get better,” Rodriguez said. “Postseason is just around the corner, and we want to continue to keep improving to make sure we’re at the best that we can be to make the biggest run that we can in the postseason. Every single match, we’ve all been trying to play the best we can.”
That carried over into the second set, too. Egan had an ace and Brook Borum racked up four kills in an opening 6-0 run, then Rodriguez had a pair of aces alongside kills by Brook Borum and Bree Borum for an 11-1 lead. Dittmar set Bree Borum for the final kill of that run, and Sterling coach Dale Dykeman used the remainder of the match to sub in reserves liberally.
“It’s good, especially for our team, to get everyone involved, get everyone in [the match], and just get to play with new people and different lineups,” Rodriguez said. “In practice, they push us so hard, and they’re ready to go in and play well whenever they get the chance.
“It might be a cool score to be 25-5 or something, but to get everyone in and get to play with everyone and just spread the ball around to everyone, I like that a lot better.”
Stillman Valley (15-12) never got closer than eight points the rest of the way, as kills from Brook Borum, Egan, Bree Borum and Gould seemed to answer every couple of points for the Cardinals.
In a nonconference match in a less-than-full gym, the Warriors were able to keep their energy up thanks to the contributions of the players off the bench.
“As important as it is to have the energy on the court, we also like to keep the energy up on the bench, and by feeding off the energy on the bench and on the court, we really are good at supporting each other and keeping the team up,” Dittmar said. “I think we definitely play with confidence, and our confidence rises while we’re playing, as we get a bigger lead. We just feed off of each other’s energy, and it just keeps growing every point.”
Brook Borum finished with 11 kills snd a block, and Bree Borum added 10 assists, three kills, two blocks and an ace. Egan had 10 points and three kills, Gebhardt had three blocks and a kill, and Gould had 6 digs, two kills and a block. Dittmar dished five assists, Bryant served for seven points, and Rodriguez chipped in 11 digs, six assists, 10 points and four aces.
Gracey Lovgren led Stillman with four kills, Meyer added three kills and a block, and Haylee King had seven assists.
“Coming in, we knew it was going to be tough. They’ve definitely had some success over the last few years, and it really carries through mentality-wise,” Stillman Valley coach Jamie McCarty said of Sterling. “When you haven’t had that much success, getting that mental aspect and being able to play with those teams is tough sometimes.
“Especially going into the postseason, to have an opportunity to play someone who has highly effective hitters and just plays the game well, it really challenges us and kind of gives us something to work toward. It allows us to see where we really struggle against the better teams, and gives us a chance to build off of that.”
Sterling def. Stillman Valley 25-9, 25-13
Star of the match: Brook Borum, Sterling, 11 kills, 1 block
Key performers: Lexi Rodriguez, Sterling, 11 digs, 6 assists, 10 points, 4 aces; Bree Borum, Sterling, 10 assists, 3 kills, 2 blocks, 1 ace; Macie Gebhardt, Sterling, 3 blocks, 1 kill; Gracey Lovgren, Stillman, 4 kills; Paige Meyer, Stillman, 3 kills, 1 block
Up next: Sterling at Quincy, noon Saturday