CEDAR RAPIDS — In the pivotal game, Carroll Kuemper made the pivotal run.
The third-ranked Knights pulled out of an 18-14 hole in Game 3 and went on to hand No. 6 Lake Mills its first loss of the season, 20-25, 25-14, 25-22, 25-23, in a Class 2A quarterfinal at the state volleyball tournament Thursday night at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.
“It was just pure focus,” said Kuemper Coach Keith Stickrod. “Once we got over the hump there, our confidence really started building up.
“And like (outside hitter) Brandi (Bueltel) said, ‘Now we’re playing Kuemper volleyball.’ ”
Kuemper (33-5) advances to face No. 2 Western Christian in the semifinals at 5:15 p.m. Friday. Western (42-3) swept No. 7 Treynor on Thursday.
“They’re the big dog,” Stickrod said. “We’re excited about the opportunity.”
Lake Mills retired at 43-1. The Bulldogs came to Cedar Rapids with an unbeaten record for the second straight year. Last year, they advanced to the semifinals.
A return looked promising for a while. After splitting the first two games, the Bulldogs scored seven straight points in the third game for an 18-14 lead. But it didn’t last.
Kuemper scored five straight points for a 19-18 edge, and four in a row for a 23-20 advantage. Maria Dentlinger had two key blocks at the end of the set.
“Our momentum and our level of energy got so much better,” Bueltel said. “We came out of that set a totally different team.”
Bueltel led all attackers with 15 kills. Dentlinger (14), Claire Ludwig (12) and Lexi Albrecht (12) joined her in double figures as Kuemper built a 61-38 kill advantage — though the Knights did amass 38 hitting errors.
Megan Johnson led Lake Mills with eight kills.
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