Western Dubuque’s Madison Maahs (18) and teammates celebrate a point during their 3-1 victory over Dubuque Senior on Tuesday night at Nora Gymnasium.

It was a heated battle inside the heater of Nora Gymnasium.

Muggy conditions on Tuesday made for a toasty playing environment at Dubuque Senior High School, where the players persevered through fatigue and sweat-soaked jerseys to put on a show in a seesaw contest.

Maddy Maahs was a machine for Western Dubuque with 34 assists, while Maddie Harris delivered 16 kills, Ella Meyer had 14 digs and Meredith Bahl added 13 digs as Western Dubuque picked up its well-deserved first win of the season, 22-25, 25-19, 30-28, 25-12, over the very game Rams.

“It was hot, but we played well as a team,” said Maahs, a sophomore. “We’re young, but we don’t use that as an excuse for us. We use it as motivation to help us get wins under our belts.”

The opening set belonged to the Rams (4-4), who busted out to a 3-0 lead and despite a rally from the Bobcats (1-3) took a 19-13 lead on a block by Bridget Weber. A kill by Harris cut the deficit to 22-19 and another from the sophomore made it 23-21, but a tip shot at the net by Olivia Baxter that the Bobcats couldn’t handle sealed it for Senior, 25-22.

Katelyn Kitchen and Hailey Goedert led the Rams with eight kills apiece. Ella Link had 26 digs.

“Something about the Bobcats this year is that they never give up and they’re going to fight,” WD coach Megan Scherrman said. “When we get in those situations, I’d say that’s the time I’m least worried. They are going to fight and never give up. We’ve come back from some pretty big deficits this year, so it’s good to see them battle and finish on the winning side.”

The Bobcats answered in the second set, as Kaylee Elgin’s drop shot pushed their lead to 9-4. Baxter’s block cut Senior’s deficit to 12-9, and when WD tried pulling away again, Senior answered. The teams traded errors down the stretch before Elgin’s block put WD at game point, and a net violation by the Rams wrapped it up for the Bobcats, 25-19, to tie things up at 1-1.

“It was so hot and it was a slow start,” Maahs said. “We just had to get in the groove of things and we came out a little shaggy, but we got back into it though. It was loud in here. Our fans had a big part in it. We bring our student section with us and it’s awesome. We have a lot of people on our team that stepped up and we don’t have just that one person. We have a team, six players on the court and we play together.”

The third set decided the match, and as it wore on the feeling grew stronger that whichever team prevailed would take the next set with loads of momentum. The Rams took a 5-1 lead early, but after WD rallied to pull within 12-10, neither team led by more than three points with six lead changes the rest of the way.

“Worrying about our side of the net,” Scherrman said as a key to the win. “One of the things we talked about last week is that we’re a different team when we make the other team actually earn their points and that was a difference between Game 1 and the last three games.”

The Rams kept taking the lead, but WD continued rallying. Five times Senior took the advantage only for the Bobcats to come back and tie it, and an error by the Rams drew WD even again at 28-all. The Bobcats finally persevered with a pretty over-her-head drop shot by Maahs for the lead, and a kill by Harris capped an exhausting 30-28 win for the Bobcats.

WD used that momentum and led from the opening serve in Set 4 for a 25-12 match-clinching win.

“It feels good,” Scherrman said. “I told them to go out and enjoy this victory, but we’ve got work to do. We’ve got the potential to do some damage this year, so we need to make sure we come in to every practice and are getting better every day.”

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