CEDAR RAPIDS — You thought last year was the end of the run.
Megan Gilbert was graduating. A small school can’t overcome that loss, you said.
You thought wrong. Tripoli is alive and well.
The third-ranked Panthers got 13 kills from Bailey Kirchhoff and handled No. 7 LeMars Gehlen, 25-19, 25-11, 25-21, in a Class 1A quarterfinal at the state volleyball tournament Thursday night at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.
“Megan was a really big hitter,” Kirchhoff said. “Now we split the (hitting) work between the three seniors. A lot of people keyed on Megan last year, and they can’t do that any more.”
The four-time 1A defending state champion, Tripoli (36-5) advances to face No. 2 Fort Madison Holy Trinity (44-4) in a semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday.
Tripoli has won 10 of the last 13 small-school titles and has advanced to state 14 of the last 15 years. Quite an accomplishment for a school with about 30 kids per grade.
“We just keep working and we just keep playing as a team,” Kirchhoff said.
Gehlen (21-11) saw its tournament trail end to the hands of the Panthers for the third straight year. Last year, it happened in the state finals.
The first two games were not competitive. The third was. It was tied at 15-15 before the Panthers went on a four-point run, triggered by a kill and a block by Kirchhoff.
Courtney Anderson added nine kills for the Panthers. Ashlen Damm tacked on seven. And Toni Moeller distributed 30 assists.
Gehlen made too many mistakes to make a serious push at the champs. The Jays has more hitting errors (21) than kills (17), and more service miscues (10) than aces (seven).