EARLVILLE — Underdog Indian Creek played some inspired volleyball and took advantage of some errors by top-seeded Newark to make Friday night's championship match of the Little Ten Conference Tournament interesting.
Not enough so, however, to prevent the powerhouse Norsemen from ultimately pulling away to their 22nd title in tourney history and 16th over the past 19 years.
Newark dismissed the upstart Timberwolves in straight sets, 25-21, 25-13 at Earlville High School.
"We were all just really excited for tonight and what we've accomplished," said Newark senior outside hitter Naomi Sweeney as she cradled the championship trophy. "Our teams have always been in (the LTC Tournament title match), for 19 (consecutive) years, so it wasn't just for us. It was for everyone who's been in the program and to show the younger girls, too, what they can accomplish, keep that tradition going.
"It's always exciting just to add on to that. We wanted to make our mark."
It was an effort which left Newark coach Tonya Grayson grateful for the win ... if not overly excited with how her Lady Norsemen (25-1) recorded it.
"There are some things that have to get fixed," Grayson said. "We're not where we need to be right now with, what, two weeks of regular season left? To be playing like this, this close to the end, is problematic ... but the bottom line, though, the message to the girls is, we won.
"It's not always going to be pretty, but this tournament's about tradition in our program ... and we got that done."
Hard-hitting Trysta Foster was Indian Creek's main weapon in keeping up with the Norsemen for most of the first set. Foster put down five first-set kills — three of them during a five-point service run from Madisyn Standard which cut a once-comfortable 18-11 Newark advantage down to 18-17.
Things stayed close, with the teams trading points until 22-21 when an IC service error sent Newark's Madi Malone to the line with her team ahead 23-21. Two quick points followed to end the set, with Mattie Chapman putting down the set-winning kill off a Taylor Christian assist.
Though Indian Creek led early, the second set didn't hold such drama. A six-point Malone service run followed by a four-point run courtesy of Meggie Scott built the Norsemen lead to double digits and Chapman again put down the winner, hitting a Christian set hard off the net and straight to the center of the Timberwolves floor to put away the title.
Foster (seven kills), Clara Huthen (two aces, eight assists), Audrey Witte (three kills) and Emily Astling (two kills, stuff block) led Indian Creek.
"I am so proud," IC coach Stephanie Crutcher said. "I am so proud of the entire match. You know, we're really young, and we went (to Newark) a couple weeks ago, played them and scored 17 and 18. So our goal tonight was to hit 20, and we did that and were pretty excited. Once you get that close, you never know what can happen. ...
"In the second game, (Newark) took over, and you could tell they were the more experienced team."
For the champion Lady Norsemen, Malone (eight kills), Chapman (six kills, stuff block), Megan Williams (four kills, stuff block) and Kjersten Friestad (three kills, stuff block) led the net attack, with Christian racking up 22 assists. Scott and Sweeney each served up three aces while also leading Newark defensively — Scott with six digs, Sweeney with four.