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The Gazette KCRG
Posted November 12, 2011
Tragedy to triumph: West repeats

Lauren Larson (center, left) kisses Iowa City West's Olivia Fairfield as Fairfield carries a photograph of teammate Caroline Found past the fans in the stands after their class 4A state championship win over Iowa City High at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011, in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Found died in a moped accident Aug. 11. West won in five games.(SourceMedia Group News/Jim Slosiarek)


CEDAR RAPIDS — Good times never seemed so good.

Top-ranked Iowa City West came back from a two-game deficit and escaped a match point in the fifth set to outlast No. 2 Iowa City High, 23-25, 27-29, 25-16, 25-15, 18-16, and win its second straight Class 4A championship at the state volleyball tournament Saturday at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.

“Words can’t describe it,” said Olivia Fairfield. “Everything we’ve been through … it makes this mean so much more.”

Two games, then a match point. That’s nothing. The Women of Troy (39-6) have been through so much worse.

They lost their setter, Caroline Found — Coach Kathy Bresnahan called her “the pulse” of the team — who was killed in a moped accident in August.

Iowa City West's Mollie Mason (left) jousts with Iowa City High's Erin Muir during their class 4A state championship match at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011, in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa. West won in five games.(SourceMedia Group News/Jim Slosiarek)

“Caroline talked about how we were going to win it again this year,” Bresnahan said. “She was right. But I thought she’d be on the floor with us.”

After the match was over, Bresnahan climbed the 3-foot wall that leads to the stands, sought out Caroline’s father, Ernie Found, and embraced him. In the background, Neil Diamond’s hit, “Sweet Caroline” was piped over the Ice Arena speakers.

The song has been West’s rallying cry since shortly after the accident.

Stumpff was the all-tournament captain after collecting 22 kills. She was joined on the all-tournament team by Fairfield, City’s Michaela Nelson and Rachel Rinehart, Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Lexi Rogers and Ankeny’s Maddie Manning.

It was Stumpff that put down the championship kill.

“I don’t think anything can top this,” Stumpff said of the drama on her 18th birthday. “I think we were overconfident at the beginning of the match. We had to start going harder.”

After dropping the first two sets, West stormed through the next two. But that nearly went for naught.

City High (40-4) had four one-point leads late in Game 5, including match point when Liz Hubing’s tip made it 14-13.

But in each of those four situations, the Little Hawks missed their serve.

“We made some errors we shouldn’t have made,” Nelson said. “We had some mental lapses, but every team has those.”

West had match point at 15-14 and 16-15. City fought those off, but Stumpff’s kill on the third try clinched it.

Fairfield added 13 kills for the Women of Troy. Kelley Fliehler, who took over the setter’s role this season after the Found tragedy, had 38 assists.

Iowa City West's Anna Pashkova (center) leaps into the air as the Women of Troy beat Iowa City High for the class 4A state championship at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011, in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa. West won in five games.(SourceMedia Group News/Jim Slosiarek)

“I just can’t believe this,” she said. “It’s unreal that it ended up this way.”

Storybook stuff.

“It’s still soaking in,” Fairfield said. “We didn’t think in August that we could win state.”

Nelson led City High was 21 kills. Rinehart added 14, Hubing 12. The Little Hawks had 42 attack errors, compared to 19 for West. City missed 13 kills, West five.

“You just can’t simulate Game 5 of a state-championship match in practice,” said City High Coach Craig Pitcher. “If you could, we would.

“I knew we were going to show up today, and we did. We were very composed through the first two sets.”

City High led the third game, 15-14, before West closed the set on an 11-1 run, then carried that wave through Game 4.

“We weren’t going to go down in three,” Stumpff said. “We just had to start going harder, and we did.”

West led the finale 9-6, then a gem of a scramble point ignited a City High run that put the Little Hawks in front, 11-10.

Then City’s string of service error hit. Two went long. One went wide. One went in the net. Then, at 16-all, another in the net.

“Things just didn’t go our way at the end,” said City setter Erin Muir, who had 56 assists. “It went their way.”


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