CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa City High was a little off. A step slow. And forced to settle for second again.
Seventh-ranked Bettendorf pulled its third straight surprise at the state volleyball tournament, claiming its first championship with a 28-25, 23-25, 26-24, 25-23 victory over the fourth-ranked Little Hawks on Saturday at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.
“It’s an unreal feeling, an honor to our school,” said Bettendorf’s Caitlin Wernentin, the all-tournament captain. “We felt it was better to be the underdogs because it gives us a little more to strive for.”
Bettendorf concludes the season with a less-than-elite 23-11 record. But the Bulldogs are top dogs, earning the title with wins this week over No. 3 Dubuque Hempstead, No. 2 Pleasant Valley and the Little Hawks.
City High (31-9) was the runner-up for the second straight year. The Little Hawks fell in five last season to Iowa City West.
“We were just a little flat today,” said City Coach Craig Pitcher. “We were a little slow to the ball. We weren’t in fluid motion.
“Something was just missing.”
All four of the games were close. Ultimately, it was the Bulldogs that made the key plays.
“They brought their ‘A’ game,” said City High libero Mickey Hansche. “We were a step behind. Our defense wasn’t as good today (as in Friday’s win over No. 1 Ankeny). Our blocking and hitting weren’t as good.”
City High had a 24-23 lead in Game 1, and again in Game 3. The Little Hawks couldn’t convert on either opportunity.
The end of the first game was error-filled; four of Bettendorf’s final five points were the result of City miscues.
City High recovered to win the second set, emerging from a 22-22 tie thanks to a block and a kill by Abby Saehler.
The third game was pivotal, and the Bulldogs knew it.
“The third game is the most important, and we had to have it,” Wernentin said.
Anna Willey made sure the Bulldogs got it. She had two kills, a block and an ace in Bettendorf’s final five points, and the Bulldogs won it on Hannah Matt’s block.
Danielle Pennington was key in Game 4, with three late kills as the Bulldogs came back from a 22-20 deficit, and Bettendorf wrapped up its third win of the season against the Little Hawks.
Wernentin led the Bulldogs with 17 kills and was joined on the all-tournament team by Willey (16 kills), as well as City’s Michaela Nelson (match-high 18 kills) and Ruth Grace (58 assists).
Ankeny’s Jaali Winters and Pleasant Valley’s Chloe Miller rounded out the team.