Ravens vanquish Eagles in a sweep, compete in SEISC Tourney

By Giovanni Coronel
Posted 9/27/23

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a… wait, no, it’s actually two birds and they are duking it out on the volleyball court.  

In a battle of bird themed teams, …

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Ravens vanquish Eagles in a sweep, compete in SEISC Tourney


It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a… wait, no, it’s actually two birds and they are duking it out on the volleyball court. 

In a battle of bird themed teams, the Ravens and the Keota Eagles faced off against each other for the second time this season on Sept. 19.

After losing to the hosting Eagles in a tournament championship match last month, the Ravens aimed to avenge their defeat in this rematch that gave Hillcrest the home court advantage this time around. 

Not relinquishing a single set, Hillcrest walked away victorious, defeating Keota, 3-0, with final scores of 25-13, 25-23, 29-27. 

“We have struggled putting teams away, all year.  I tell the girls we can beat anybody, but we can also lose to anyone,” Hillcrest coach Brandon Statler said. 

“With a young group our effort is so important, it really does take us to a whole new level when we find that higher gear to play in.  The memory of that earlier three set loss really stung and brought the best out for us on our home floor.”

This win for Hillcrest puts an end to a three-game losing streak and it is also the first time they swept an opponent in a five-set match this season. 

In front of their home crowd Hillcrest led the Eagles in all team statistical categories. They outperformed Keota in kills (35-19), assists (34-11), blocks (5-1), and digs (72-51). 

While the Ravens won the first set by 12 points, the Eagles did not go out without a fight. 

The second set saw the game nearly go to a deuce and the third set did reach a deuce, with both Hillcrest and Keota nearly reaching 30 points. 

While the Ravens could afford to drop the third set, they did not leave anything to chance, coming out on top of the back-and-forth deuce to finish off the Eagles in three.  

“I told the girls we needed to ‘run the race with perseverance’ as we prepared for that match, and that really rang true at the end of that third set,” coach Statler said about the matchup against Keota. “We had three or four match points starting at 24-23 that didn’t fall our way, but we found a way to keep fighting through tough plays and get the W.”

Having herself another productive game for Hillcrest, junior Malia Yoder led the Ravens in three separate categories. 

As a team Hillcrest had 35 kills and Yoder led the team with 14 kills of her own. On defense she had a team high 19 digs. While serving she accounted for 6 of Hillcrest’s 11 service aces. 

“There at the end we really leaned on Malia Yoder, she is our crunch time go to, and she had some huge plays down the stretch,” coach Statler said.

Sophomore Niva Helmuth proved to be a daunting presence at the net against Keota, leading the Ravens with three solo blocks. She also had nine digs and seven kills, the second most on the team. 

Hillcrest had four players reach double digits in the digs department. In addition to Yoder, the other Ravens to accomplish this feat were sophomore Claire Withrow (12), junior Kylee Statler (11), and junior Lydia Beachy (15). 

“Niva Helmuth & Kylee Statler did a great job shutting down the opposition’s attacks, as Keota went to almost exclusively tips by the second set,” coach Statler said.

Withrow also continues to be the primary force behind Hillcrest’s attacks. Averaging 11 assists per set she ended her night leading the team with 33 assists. 

SEISC Tournament 

Entering pool play on the road the Ravens traveled to Columbus to compete in the opening stages of the Southeast Iowa Super Conference Tournament on Sept. 21. 

In addition to the host school, Columbus, and Hillcrest the other two teams to compete in this four-team pool were Van Buren and Notre Dame. The top two teams from each pool advanced to play for the championship on Sept. 23. 

Once the dust settled after all matches wrapped up Notre Dame placed first, Van Buren placed second, Columbus placed third, and Hillcrest placed fourth. 

Hillcrest’s first match of the day was against Burlington Notre Dame, a strong opponent. Notre Dame defeated the Ravens, 2-0, with final scores of 21-14, 21-18.

While the Ravens fell into deficit as large as seven in the second set, they were still able to battle back to tie the score at 17-17, but Notre Dame was ableto quell any potential Hillcrest comeback by going on a 4-1 run to end the set. 

“Taking Burlington to the brink was great.  Our blockers shut down their attacks, and our hitters swung with confidence as well as we have all year,” Hillcrest coach Brandon Statler said.

Quickly going from one match to another Hillcrest’s second matchup of the day was against the Van Buren Warriors. The Warriors defeated Hillcrest, 2-0, with final scores of 21-10, 21-17.  

“Van Buren we played a little shocked. It was a fast evening, with three matches,” coach Statler said. “We took a little time adjusting to the new gym without having a warmup, and by the time we adjusted, we did come roaring back, but fell short.”

Hillcrest’s third and final match of the day was against the host school, the Columbus Wildcats, a familiar opponent for the Ravens. 

While Hillcrest was able to win their first set of the day it was the Wildcats who emerged victorious, 2-1, with final scores of 21-11, 24-26, and 15-10. 

  “I’m afraid Columbus has just had our number on their home floor,” coach Statler said. “We didn’t play our best volleyball, the 50/50 balls definitely fell the wrong way, but the effort was there, and for that I was proud.”

Up next for Hillcrest (6-10) is a home game against the Highland Huskies (8-12) on Sept. 28.