CEDAR RAPIDS – It was the match of the day on a day full of mismatches.
Sioux City Heelan and Pella battled in the only five-game match of the first day of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union state volleyball tournament, and the Crusaders will return for more.
Heelan outlasted Pella, 25-20, 23-25, 25-16, 23-25, 15-8, in a Class 3A state quarterfinal Wednesday night at the U.S. Cellular Center.
“That was a really good game,” Heelan’s Leisa McClintock said. “Pella’s a great team and I think we’re equal,”
Heelan went from being even to grabbing a solid advantage in the final game, scoring the opening three points and amassing a commanding 12-5 lead.
“It was perfect,” Crusader middle hitter Natalie Vondrak said. “That’s the way to go. We were all fired up right away. We build on that.”
Vondrak and Katelyn Walsh powered the Crusaders with 14 kills apiece. Megan McCarthy added 10 for Heelan (46-9), which is making its 13th consecutive trip to the state tournament. A key component of those trips is a solid serving game, and that held true against Pella.
“We worked in practice about serving in zones and spots,” McClintock said. “Not even an ace serve, but serving to spots where you can get the main hitters out of rhythm.”
McCarthy and Walsh had six aces apiece for Heelan with Allie Sweeney contributing three. The Crusaders jump-servers gave the Dutch fits.
“A jump serve coming at you, it’s a little bit intimidating,” Heelan Coach Mary Miller said. “We have three jump-servers and they all have a different look.”
Pella played tough, outscoring Heelan 16-7 to take the fourth game, and rebounded from squandering a 23-18 lead to win the second game.
Brooke Fessler had 39 assists to go along with eight kills for the Dutch (38-6). Hali Steenhoek and Lindsay Bentzinger reaped the most benefit from Fessler, tallying 18 and 10 kills, respectively.
“Give credit to Pella,” Miller said. “They had an incredible setter.”
Next up for Heelan is top-ranked Mount Vernon. It’s a good feeling to get through the opening round, but it’s time to play the role to tumble Goliath.
“At this point, we’re happy to get past that round,” Miller said. “I’d rather have the toughest opponent in the semis than in the finals. Hopefully, we can be David.”
MOUNT VERNON 3, RED OAK 0
The top-ranked Mustangs made easy work of Red Oak, moving a step closer to a second straight state title with a 25-14, 25-8, 25-5 quarterfinal win.
It was business as usual Wednesday for the Mustangs (38-0) on and off the court, who attended a full day of school before a send off to play in Cedar Rapids.
“We had a send off when school was over at 3 (p.m.), and played volleyball at night,” Mount Vernon Coach Shirley Ryan said. “Keep everything as normal as possible.”
The performance was normal for Mount Vernon, which dominated from the start. Mount Vernon never trailed in the opening game, and after falling down 1-0 in the second, scored 10 straight while building a 22-6 advantage. In the third game, Mount Vernon darted ahead 20-3 before ending the night.
Cohesiveness and intensity were keys.
“Just playing together as a team and keeping up our energy,” said Mustang middle hitter Courtney Kintzel, who had eight kills and two aces. “Just keep going on to the next point.”
Kintzel said there is pressure to follow last year’s 2A championship with a 3A crown, but the Mustangs ignore it.
“We just push it aside,” Kintzel said, “and play our game.”
No chance for a let down against Red Oak, which ended its season 22-12.
“I don’t look at ratings. I don’t worry about any of that,” said Ryan, whose Mustangs are ranked sixth nationally by prepvolleyball.com. “We just try to play solid technique volleyball.”
Amanda Platte led the Mustangs with nine kills and Ali Stark added seven. Sarah Ryan had 25 assists for Mount Vernon.
Rachel Pierson had four kills and four assists to pace Red Oak.
WAVERLY-SHELL ROCK 3, UNION COMMUNITY 0
The Go-Hawks swept the Knights, who didn’t go down without a fight. After staving off three game points in the third game, the second-ranked Go-Hawks scored the final three points to advance to the 3A state semifinals, 25-11, 25-22, 31-29. The defending state champions will face West Delaware (40-3) Friday at 1:30 p.m.
“When you come to state, you know everybody is going to put up their best fight,” WSR senior Rachel Peth said. “But I didn’t expect them to come out this well.”
Peth notched two of her game-high 14 kills in the final three points to close out the match. Morgan Kuhrt added 10 kills and Kinsey Caldwell added 23 for the Go-Hawks (49-1). The performance could have been sharper, but its time to look toward trying to reach the finals again.
“We’ve got to move forward,” Peth said, “and forget about this one.”
Sam Barz had 10 kills and Payton Hilton, Casey Barney and Mary Wrage added six apiece to lead Union, which ended its season at 30-7 and returns 11 players for next year.
“We gave it all we had, but we didn’t have quite enough. Our hustle was outstanding,” Union Coach Brian Jesse said. “We knew we were going to have to dig some balls against some very good hitters.”
Allie Sweeney, Brian Jesse, Brooke Fessler, Crusaders. Pella, Dutch, Go-Hawks, Hali Steenhoek, Katelyn Walsh, Knights, leisa McClintock, Lindsay Bentzinger, Mary Miller, Megan McCarthy, Mount Vernon, Mustangs, natalie Vondrak, Rachel Peth, Red Oak, Sioux City Heelan, Union Community, Waverly-Shell Rock