CONRAD - With their postseason reunions already predetermined, four area high school volleyball teams from the same division of the same conference converged at the BCLUW Invitational on Saturday.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck got the most out of its journey to Conrad, while three other familiar squads fought for second place behind the Rebels.
West Marshall won a three-game thriller over tournament host BCLUW in what turned out to be the match to decide second place, while East Marshall won its first two matches of the season - both 2-1 comeback victories - amid the six-team round-robin event.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck players and coaches stood in front of the net on south court in the Conrad Roundhouse at the end of the day to allow parents and grandparents to take the championship squad's picture for the third time in five tournaments this season. It's something head coach Marcia Koester says can become addicting, and her team has enjoyed feeding the need this fall.
"Three tournament victories in one year is remarkable," Koester said. "We just have not had that in our volleyball program for so long. The girls are thinking that they've hit a milestone and that the volleyball program is coming along."
The Rebels (22-8), who dropped out of the Class 2A rankings this week after the previous Thursday's debut, ran through Saturday's competition in 10 games straight.
G-R swept West Marshall (21-16, 21-16), BCLUW (21-16, 21-15), East Marshall (21-17, 21-16), Lynnville-Sully (21-11, 21-18) and New Hampton (21-13, 21-13) to capture the team title.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck got out to a slow start by its standards but turned up the heat to close out the day, quickly dispatching both Lynnville-Sully and New Hampton by convincing margins.
The Rebels were led by Emily Stoakes' 27 kills and five service aces on the day. Shannon Boyle totaled 20 kills and five blocks in her return to regular duty, while Jenna Roeding had 19 kills, four aces and a team-high 13 blocks.
Addi Kickbush contributed 16 kills, three aces and 15 digs. Setter Jill Schildroth amassed 85 assists to go along with 16 digs, five blocks, five aces and six kills. Libero player Erin Wentzien led the Rebels with 27 digs.
Emily Dinsdale and Carrie Shouse shared time on the court, playing five games apiece, and chipped in eight and nine kills, respectively.
The day's first match on the north court, G-R's sweep of West Marshall, turned out to be the first-place contest. The two teams will meet again in the opening round of 2A Region 5 play on Oct. 19 in Reinbeck.
"It helped a little bit, Boyle wasn't playing the last time we played them so we have a better idea of what they'll look like in regionals," said Trojan head coach Mike Eckhardt. "We played a little tentative I thought, we gave them a number of errors, but I think the girls know we can play with them. We've got to keep that going into next week."
West Marshall finished 4-1 for second place, followed by BCLUW (3-2) and East Marshall (2-3). New Hampton (1-4) and Lynnville-Sully (0-5) were on the low end of the day's events behind four NICL West Division clubs.
Katelynn Sjoblom and McKenna Hotopp led West Marshall (22-8) with 23 kills apiece. Hotopp was 41-for-41 serving with three aces, while Sjoblom led the Trojans with eight aces.
Alexa Hotopp had 21 kills, Mackenzie Shipley added 14 kills and Hailee Halverson 12. Halverson had a team-best seven blocks, Shipley had six and Jamie Vis four.
Taylor Weyer had 43 assists and Courtney Porter put up 39 successful sets. Libero player Molly Underwood racked up 57 digs during the day, Sjoblom had 36 and McKenna Hotopp had 30.
Host BCLUW had West Marshall on the ropes in hopes of avenging their regular season and NICL West loss to the Trojans. Instead, West Marshall rallied back from a first-set defeat for the 17-21, 25-23, 15-10 triumph.
"I'm happy with three wins in a day, you can't be disappointed with that," said BCLUW head coach Kristen Garber. "The West Marshall loss stings though. We played well, it just came down to how the ball falls and it went their way.
"I thought we could pull that out, I thought (the Trojans) were flat and we were playing aggressive at the net. That's just the way the ball falls. More energy and we would have won that match."
Brittany Ambler came way with a Comet-high 37 kills on the day. Danielle Montgomery had 25 kills and 10 service aces, while Reeba Box had 19 kills. Kylee Button led with 25 digs and Courtney Amundson finished with 84 assists.
BCLUW (16-13) will meet East Marshall in the Oct. 19 regional opener back in Conrad. The Comets swept their regular season match, as well as Saturday's pairing, 21-18, 21-14.
"East Marshall was missing a player the first time around, so we got to see them with her on the court," Garber added. "We got one more look at everybody."
The NICL West Division slate wraps up with Tuesday's set of games, though East Marshall (2-21) has already finished. The Mustangs got in the 'W' column for the first time this season in their first match Saturday, coming from behind to beat New Hampton (14-21, 21-18, 15-13).
Later in the day, East Marshall doubled up with another comeback 2-1 victory over Lynnville-Sully, 21-23, 22-20, 15-8.
"The girls have stayed positive for the most part," said Mustang head coach Jodi Hinegardner. "At times (this season) we've played hard but couldn't get over the edge. Today the two matches we won we had to come back and win it in three.
"I think we're starting to communicate better, move our feet and run our offense."
GMG transfer Tara Gray led East Marshall with 12 kills for the day. Abby Nuese, Alissa Harem and Karly Long added nine apiece.
Chantel Eicher served 33-for-34 with six aces, Nuese went 24-for-24 with four aces and Alyssa Whitmore was 17-for-17 with four aces. Whitmore, the Mustangs' Libero player, had a team-leading 44 digs. Eicher added 30 digs and Katie Haunsperger had 24 more.
Long finished with 32 assists and Nuese had 26. Gray led the Mustangs with 13 block-touches, Harem had 11 and Nuese nine.
Tuesday's final round of NICL West contests has Gladbrook-Reinbeck visiting Grundy Center with the conference title on the line. BCLUW visits South Hardin while West Marshall hosts AGWSR.