CEDAR RAPIDS — No doubt, Fort Madison Holy Trinity had the best player.
And there’s no dispute, Janesville had the better team.
The second-ranked Wildcats survived Mikaela Foecke’s 31-kill onslaught and captured their first state championship, 25-10, 22-25, 25-14, 25-23, in the Class 1A final at the state volleyball tournament Friday night at the U.S. Cellular Center.
“It’s amazing; we played out hearts out,” said Janesville setter Brittney Hanson. “To represent our school with a championship, it’s the best feeling ever.”
Janesville finished 38-4 and kept the 1A title in the Iowa Star Conference for the sixth straight season. Tripoli had won the last five titles.
Four different Wildcats reached double-digits in kills — Kendyl Sorge and Anna Backstrom collected 12, Sylvia Amlie and Gillian Gergen 11. And that was enough to get them past the Foecke-centric Crusaders (47-5).
“We knew she was going to get her kills,” Sorge said. “And she was going to get multiple kills in a row.
“Our main theme was this: When she was in the back row, we were going to go after it. When she was in the front row, we were going to rely mainly on our defense.”
Janesville sprinted through its first two state-tournament matches (against Springville and Central Lyon). And, early on, this was more of the same.
“What did they do well? Everything,” Foecke said. “That might sound like a joke, but everything. You thought you had a kill down, and they were there. You thought it was down, but it wasn’t.”
A 6-foot-4 middle hitter, Foecke is one of the more talented players to come through the state in recent history. She played on the 18-and-under U.S. national team that won a silver medal last summer in Thailand.
Foecke took 93 swings Friday, but the Wildcats withstood them.
Holy Trinity won the second set (the only postseason blemish on the Wildcats’ ledger) before Janesville controlled Game 3, then rallied in Game 4.
The Crusaders led 20-15 before Janesville closed with a 10-3 rush behind Gergen, a freshman, who had three kills down the stretch, plus a block on one of Foecke’s back-row attacks.
Hanson delivered 48 assists for Janesville.
Foecke was the all-tournament captain. She was joined by Sorge, Hanson and Amlie, Holy Trinity’s Madlyn Orton, LeMars Gehlen’s Morgan Whitehead and Central Lyon’s Angel Rasmussen.