WEST BRANCH – Only a net separated it. On one side there were cheers, hugs and high-fives. There were pictures, smiles and hoards of people, all wearing maroon of Pleasant Valley volleyball.
On the other, donning the red and blue of Cedar Rapids Washington, fans sprinkled the court inside West Branch High School; their arms crossed, heads down, not a smile to be found.
The reason hung above the Warriors fans. The scoreboard displayed the score 15-13, the score of the fifth set in favor of Pleasant Valley as it beat Washington 3-2 in the 4A regional finals on Tuesday.
“They’re 38-1. They’re a really good team. And you know what, I think our girls were prepared,” Washington head coach Kari Lombardi said. “I think they came to play tonight and I think they did a great job. I’m really proud of them.”
The Warriors did more than hold their own, they held the lead in the fifth, after taking the first two sets. Overall Pleasant Valley won 21-25, 19-25, 25-12, 25-19, 15-13. There wasn’t much drama in both teams’ win in the first four sets. Pleasant Valley caught fire in the third when Chloe Miller began to take over.
“I think when we were able to establish our offense, get the ball to her more consistently and get the ball to her, that she was able to put the ball away,” Pleasant Valley head coach Stacey Ruff said. “I knew that we’d be in a much better place by the end of the night.”
It wasn’t without a fight from the Warriors’ own close Danielle Franklin. Down, 7-3 in the fifth, Frankin tallied four kills to pull her team ahead 9-7. Overall she had six in the fifth set alone.
“During the Pleasant Valley timeout I told Hanna (Reese) feed Dani, and she did,” Lombardi said.
But even the best closer has their best pitch hit occasionally. Franklin’s last kill put the Warriors up 10-9. Pleasant Valley made an adjustment to guard the line and closed the set on an 8-5 run.
“Oh gosh, we were trying to make every adjustment on her. She did a great job,” Ruff said. “I felt that in game three and four she really wasn’t hitting the ball the way she did in games one and two. Then all of a sudden in game five, when they were down, she found a way to peg that line, like on the two, on that sideline and made a few adjustments, started being able to side out and that helped us.”
It also advanced Pleasant Valley to state. For Washington, it was the closest the Warrior had ever been. As the walked out of the locker room, the Warriors fans finally moved. There was finally some signs of life as they were greeted with applause for a season seemingly cut short, but overall successful.
“Just how proud I am of them. This team that played tonight was not the same team that we started with in August. They’ve worked extremely hard,” Lombardi said. “… And you know what, 15-13, the last game. I mean, that’s what I told them, I’m super proud of them.”