With every swing from its senior leader Brittany Ambler and every ball picked up by its scrappy defense, BCLUW was growing stronger and stronger.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck had to jump into survival mode early and was able to regroup for a four-game victory over the Comets Tuesday in Class 2A Region 5 quarterfinal volleyball action.
The Rebels won for the fourth time over BCLUW this season - this one the toughest of the bunch - to extend their season, 19-25, 25-23, 25-22, 25-17.
Ambler, the NICL West's leader in kills for the season, led the early charge for the Comets with seven kills in the opening game as BCLUW won 25-19.
"I thought we came out doing the things we had been practicing," said BCLUW head coach Kristen Garber. "They came out with some emotion and came out taking care of the ball. I thought we played really great off the bat."
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy from that point on, but just for the emotional side of it, that was really big," Garber added of the opening-game win.
The Comets scored the final five points of the game led by two blocks along with two Ambler kills.
"I was really worried after losing the first game," said Gladbrook-Reinbeck head coach Marcia Koester, "but all year the team has been fighters and they showed that tonight."
BCLUW's defense continued to cover all corners of the court to keep the Rebels from getting going, but the hosts found a way to take game two, 25-23. An Emily Stoakes kill won it for Gladbrook-Reinbeck.
"Getting that second-game win was the key to tonight," Koester said.
Game three was much of the same with the Rebels taking a hard-fought battle, 25-22.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck closed the night strong with its best play coming in game four on its way to closing the match out, 25-17.
The Rebels took each of the three previous meetings with the Comets, going 7-1 in game play.
"When you play a team so many times, they know your weaknesses and they know your strengths," Koester said. "I give credit to Kristen Garber, she came out with a plan and it worked well in the first game and we had to adjust."
"I'm just thankful for the outcome and the girls are just real pleased," Koester added. "We wanted to still be in, we want to keep playing."
Next up for Gladbrook-Reinbeck (25-9) is a semifinal round matchup with Gilbert Friday in Conrad.
BCLUW ended the season with a 16-15 mark, eight of its losses coming to teams that still are in the Class 2A regional semifinals.
"We talked about the fact we aren't going to stop all their hitters, we just need to take care of each ball as it comes to us, one ball at a time is what we talked about," said Garber, who played on the 1988 state runner-up Gladbrook-Reinbeck team coached by Koester. "We knew they were going to get points, we knew they were going to get kills, but we knew we had to take care of the balls we had to take care of. I thought we did a pretty good job of that tonight."
Ambler's huge final match saw her have 27 kills on the night.
"Brittany had an awesome match," Garber said. "They're good blockers and she was getting over and around them. They didn't block her a lot."
Spikes to the floor, hits deflecting to the court off the block, as well as tips, everything Ambler hit was gold. Her 27 kills came in 54 attempts. She had six errors and hit .389.
"Not until the fourth game did we really get enough blocks on her," Koester said.
"We just couldn't stop her, almost everything she hit was for a kill and she's a smart player so can make that change in mid-air and go around the block."
Jenna Roeding led Gladbrook-Reinbeck with 15 kills, Stoakes finished with 14 kills and Shannon Boyle 10. The Rebel attack was slowed in the early going, but G-R made some adjustments to get Jill Schildroth back to running things and the senior setter ended with 42 assists.
Erin Wentzien finished with 12 digs for the Rebels. Addi Kickbush added nine digs and Schildroth had seven.
Both teams were hurt by service errors - there were six combined errors in the match's first 16 points. Stoakes had three aces to pace G-R. Serving was to be a focus in practice for the Rebels, Koester said, as the team would be back on the court early Wednesday. Also in the gym Wednesday morning would be the television crew from the KWWL morning show.
Friday's semifinal contest between G-R and Gilbert is set for a 7 p.m. start. The Tigers downed Roland-Story, 25-21, 27-25, 25-17 Tuesday night in Gilbert to advance.
The bottom half of the Region 5 back has South Hamilton facing Grundy Center Friday at Grundy Center. The semifinal winners advance to the regional final Tuesday at Conrad.
Reeba Box chipped in 10 kills while Kendall Scurr and Danielle Montgomery added five kills apiece for the Comets. Courtney Amundson finished with 42 assists and Libero player Kylee Button made 11 digs.