CEDAR RAPIDS — Maybe they’re just not morning people.
The early edition of Dubuque Hempstead was vulnerable, highly beatable. But when championship play arrived, so did the Mustangs.
Class 5A third-ranked Hempstead cranked it up Saturday afternoon and captured the Mississippi Valley Conference volleyball tournament championship. The Mustangs handled Cedar Rapids Washington, 25-21, 25-19 in the final match.
“We definitely stepped it up when we needed to,” said senior Audrey Reeg, who collected 17 kills in the championship match. “We were jelling better. We were getting excited. And that helped us play better.”
Hempstead (27-5) limped through pool play, absorbing two losses (against Dubuque Wahlert and Linn-Mar) and barely making it into the championship bracket. Once they Mustangs got there, they were there to stay.
As the day went longer, the Mustangs got better, outlasting 5A No. 4 Iowa City High in a three-set quarterfinal before sweeping No. 8 Cedar Falls and Washington in the final two matches.
In the title match, Hempstead used an array of offspeed attacks to keep the Warriors (24-13) off balance.
“We just kept doing it until they adjusted,” Reeg said. “And they didn’t adjust.”
Washington Coach Kari Lombardi said, “Not many teams a fast offense like they do. When it’s effective, it’s really tough to handle.”
All in all, it was an extremely successful day for Washington, which earned the top placing in a pool in which three teams — Cedar Rapids Xavier and Cedar Rapids Kennedy were the other two — finished 2-1.
The Warriors swept Linn-Mar in the quarterfinals, then did the same to 4A No. 13 Dubuque Wahlert in the semis.
“We’re definitely peaking right now,” said junior hitter Aleena Hobbs. “We beat Cedar Falls (on Tuesday), and that showed that we can definitely battle with the top teams in the state.”
In each set of the finals, Hempstead was able to assert itself early and maintain control. The Mustangs used an 8-1 run to take an 11-4 lead in Game 1, them held off a late charge. In the second game, a four-point surge put Hempstead in front, 15-9.
Washington got within 19-18 on a kill by Hobbs, but Hempstead closed with six of the last seven points.
Hobbs collected six kills to lead Washington in the final. Hanna Reese dished out 13 assists.
MVC teams close out the regular season with matches Tuesday, then the postseason arrives the following week.
“Playing in this tournament, and doing well in this tournament … that’s extremely important in preparation for regionals,” Lombardi said.
MISSISSIPPI VALLEY CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
At C.R. Kennedy & C.R. Xavier
Pool A — 1. Iowa City High 3-0, 2. C.R. Prairie 1-2, 3. Dubuque Senior 1-2, 4. Waterloo West 1-2.
Dubuque Senior def. Waterloo West, 21-18, 21-16
Iowa City High def. C.R. Prairie, 21-11, 21-17
Waterloo West def. C.R. Prairie, 21-17, 21-16
Iowa City High def. Dubuque Senior, 21-16, 21-11
C.R. Prairie def. Dubuque Senior, 21-16, 21-16
Iowa City High def. Waterloo West, 21-16, 21-16
Dubuque Senior def. Waterloo West, 21-17
C.R. Prairie def. Dubuque Senior, 21-11
Pool B – 1. C.R. Washington 2-1, 2. C.R. Xavier 2-1, 3. C.R. Kennedy 2-1, 4. C.R. Jefferson 0-3.
C.R. Washington def. C.R. Kennedy, 21-11, 21-16
C.R. Xavier def. C.R. Jefferson, 21-7, 21-12
C.R. Kennedy def. C.R. Jefferson, 21-10, 21-13
C.R. Xavier def. C.R. Washington, 11-21, 21-19, 15-12
C.R. Washington def. C.R. Jefferson, 21-7, 21-8
C.R. Kennedy def. C.R. Xavier, 14-21, 22-20, 15-13
Pool C — 1. Dubuque Wahlert 2-1, 2. Dubuque Hempstead 1-2, 3. Waterloo East 0-3.
Pool D — 1. Cedar Falls 3-0, 2. Linn-Mar 2-1, 3. Iowa City West 1-2.
Dubuque Hempstead def. Waterloo East, 21-10, 21-10
Cedar Falls def. Linn-Mar, 21-13, 21-14
Dubuque Senior def. Waterloo East, 21-13, 21-5
Linn-Mar def. Iowa City West, 16-21, 21-14, 19-17
Dubuque Wahlert def. Dubuque Hempstead, 24-26, 21-19, 15-9
Cedar Falls def. Iowa City West, 21-11, 21-12
Linn-Mar def. Dubuque Hempstead, 23-21, 21-10
Cedar Falls def. Waterloo East, 21-13, 21-9
Iowa City West def. Dubuque Wahlert, 21-19, 21-16
Iowa City West def. C.R. Jefferson, 25-19, 25-14
Waterloo West def. Waterloo East, 25-23, 25-17
Iowa City West def. Dubuque Senior, 25-18, 25-20
C.R. Kennedy def. Waterloo West, 25-21, 25-20
C.R. Kennedy def. Iowa City West, 25-20, 25-23
Dubuque Hempstead def. Iowa City High, 25-23, 22-25, 15-13
Cedar Falls def. C.R. Xavier, 25-17, 24-26, 15-7
C.R. Washington def. Linn-Mar, 25-18, 25-13
Dubuque Wahlert def. C.R. Prairie, 25-23, 25-22
Dubuque Hempstead def. Cedar Falls, 27-25, 25-20
C.R. Washington def. Dubuque Wahlert, 25-13, 25-20
Dubuque Hempstead def. C.R. Washington, 25-21, 25-19