CEDAR RAPIDS - It was a contradiction for Grundy Center head volleyball coach Darwin Sents to consider calling a timeout. He had, after all, told his team to press on, push past it and swing through it.
It turns out the simple notion of stopping the Spartans was not possible anyway.
Fourth-ranked Grundy Center got through some rough patches by utilizing its potent and widespread offensive attack to sweep No. 7 Sheldon in the opening round of Class 2A play at the Iowa High School State Volleyball Tournament on Thursday night at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
Grundy Center senior Meghan Krausman, left, and assistant coach Lori Willis celebrate after the Spartans’ 25-16, 25-23, 25-20 victory over Sheldon on Thursday at the Iowa High School State Volleyball Tournament. Grundy Center returns to the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena for today’s Class 2A semifinal pairing with Western Christian at 6 p.m.
Sam Meyers had a season-high 19 kills as Grundy Center (42-1) ran its win streak to 20 matches with a 25-16, 25-23, 25-20 triumph, earning the Spartans another semifinal shot at top-ranked Western Christian (48-1) tonight at 6 p.m.
The Wolfpack ended Grundy Center's season a year ago in the same round in a 3-1 setback.
"It was a good win," said Meyers, a junior outside hitter. "Our big thing to do down here (at state) is when we get ahead or when it gets close is to just squeeze to finish the game off. That's what we talked about and that's what we tried to do."
Iowa High School State
At Cedar Rapids Ice Arena
Thursday, Nov. 10
Grundy Center 25-25-25, Sheldon 16-23-20
Western Christian 25-25-25, Kuemper Catholic 10-16-21
Lake Mills 25-25-25, Council Bluffs St. Albert 22-22-13
Dike-New Hartford 25-25-25, West Liberty 22-14-22
Friday, Nov. 11
Grundy Center (42-1) vs. Western Christian (48-1), 6 p.m.
Lake Mills (45-0) vs. Dike-New Hartford (42-3), 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 12
Semifinals winners, 3 p.m.
Sheldon (36-4) snuck within striking distance at the end of game two and nearly did so again at the end of the third set, when Sents turned to the end of his bench and suggested stemming the Orabs' momentum.
"I was debating on a timeout just to slow things down for a second and they're like, 'We got it, we got it, don't do it,'" said Sents. "The girls are like that, they're a confident group, they like to get it done on their own."
"They just believe they're going to get it done and they did," Sents added. "The pass was perfect, the set was great and the ball was down."
That point - Meyers' season-best 19th kill - returned serve to the Spartans with a 2-0 set advantage and a 24-20 lead in game three. The next point went Grundy Center's way, too, thanks to another aggressive swing.
"They're an offensive team, they run a lot of quick stuff from both the outside and the middle so it's tough to always read where the set's going and to make sure your defense is in good position to play the ball," said Sheldon head coach Michele Hoogers. "Grundy is a great team and we were just trying to go out and give them a good match and see where we ended up, and I think we were a respectable showing tonight."
Grundy Center junior setter Heather Hook amassed a season-high 43 assists on the night, varying her passes throughout the match to keep the Sheldon defense guessing. The prime example surfaced when the Spartans needed it most, too, as a seven-point surge rallied Grundy Center from a 16-15 deficit into a 22-16 lead in game three.
Sarah Frisch collected a quick set kill from the middle, Meyers smashed a quick out with no opposing blocker, Katie McMartin converted a back set and two more Meyers kills on the outside capped the swell.
"When we were behind I never felt in trouble ... but we got into a very passive game," said Sents. "We started tipping and rolling and it's like, 'Guys, that's not Grundy Center volleyball, they're better at tipping than we are. Let's us do the hitting and let them do the tipping and we'll try to pick ourself up.'
"We just got after the game a little more aggressive, swung a little bit more and it seemed to work out for us."
Sheldon senior middle hitter Kellie Goedken led her team with 15 kills but was the only Orabs hitter with more than five kills. Setter Kaitlin Jongewaard totaled 28 assists and the two shared the team lead with 13 digs.
The Spartans' supporting staff included Krausman's 11 kills, 10 for Frisch, five from McMartin and three from Riley Ackerman. Grundy Center hit .359 as a team, with Meyers' 19 kills coming on 38 attempts with only two errors.
Spartan freshman Libero player Riley Sents led a balanced back row with 14 digs, Meyers had 13, and both Sarah Johns and Carissa Sternhagen had 11.
Next up for Grundy Center is the same Western Christian program that eliminated the Spartans from the state tournament a year ago, but not the same Wolfpack. Only one member of last year's state championship squad played in top-ranked Western's 3-0 sweep of Kuemper Catholic (23-9) on Thursday night.
"Isn't that crazy, they just reload and come back and do it all over again," said Coach Sents. "Hopefully the experience we have will help us. If we can play them tight all the way through, maybe that can be the difference in the match."
Grundy Center has seven players back in action from last year's disappointed semifinal squad.
"I feel good, really confident and we're ready to take our revenge," said Frisch. "We're ready."
Western Christian's only loss this season came to Papillion-La Vista (Neb.) South - the top-ranked team in the country - nearly a month ago at the Sioux City Heelan Classic. Grundy Center's lone setback came to rival Dike-New Hartford in September in the semifinals of the Cedar Falls Tiger Invitational.
Something's got to give.
"We didn't come here to win one, we didn't come here to win two, we came here to win three," said Coach Sents. "This is great, we said it's just one step though. It's an awesome win, Sheldon was a great challenge and we stepped up to that, but the girls are not going to be happy with one or two. They're looking for three."