CEDAR RAPIDS –A solar system of Charles City players revolved around a moshpit of silver and orange. The cluster of Comets on the left side of court one in the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena weren’t done enjoying their 3-1 victory over Waverly-Shell Rock.
Senior outside hitter Jessie Sindlinger strayed from the pack and shot over to the stands, painted black with Charles City fans. Before heading into the locker room, her teammates followed her in sharing their celebration with their friends, family and fans.
The celebration was no different than the game.
“The biggest thing (Sindlinger) does is she gets us ready to play,” Charles City head coach Matthew Johnson said. “We don’t have to worry about whether she’s going to be ready to play or other girls being ready to play because she understands the moment. She’s been in the moment and the mental part of her game is so good.”
Mentally, her game is hidden, but the physical side speaks loudly on the court and her teammates feed off it. Friday, Sindlinger guided the Comets to a four set win, and a trip to the 4A volleyball final.
“I don’t even know how to explain it, just so exciting,” Sindlinger said. “Knowing that we’re going to the finals and it’s what we worked for all season and all my years of volleyball. It’s just awesome to actually be in it (Saturday).”
The Comets got there winning the final two sets of the match. Tied 1-1, Sindlinger set the tone in the third. The leader on the team in kills, opened the third set with four of her team’s first five points. This came after a second game, where Waverly silenced Sindlinger with two kills.
The hot start kept the Comets close, before a 10-2 run pulled Charles City into a commanding lead.
“We just passed better. I think that just made our offense so much easier,” Sindlinger said. “And we played smarter. I think where we hit the ball. And it just worked really well.”
After a two-point second set, Sindlinger tallied 11 kills in the final two sets. It’s a credit to her in-game adjustments but also of sophomore Hali Hillegas.
The setter kept the Waverly offense honest but serving up kill opportunities for the Comets’ middle hitters. The Go-Hawks shaded their middle hitter toward Sindlinger to set up a double-block. With Hillegas feeding Charles City’s middles, Waverly had to abandon the strategy.
“Hali did a good job of seeing that through that second and third set they were keying on her,” Johnson said. “We don’t have to run middle a lot, we just got to run middle enough to keep them honest. I thought we did a good job of running middle there in that third game and then early in that fourth game to free up Jessie and get her some good swings.”
Sindlinger had her best swings in the 28-26 first set win, where she tallied nine points. Three of the nine came when it mater most, when the teams were knotted at 20-plus. Her eighth and ninth points came with the Comets facing set point.
It’s situations like that when team leaders are supposed to come through. With their back against he wall, Sindlinger guided the Comets through difficult situation. She’s hoping to guide her team through one more match Saturday and lead one more celebration.
“It’s a neat environment. They get excited to have this many fans here watching and cheering them on,” Johnson said. “They get excited about the support they get at home, hearing the stuff on the radio, high-fiving their friends in the hallway, it’s just the whole experience is more than just the playing. I’m glad they can enjoy that.”