CEDAR RAPIDS - The end goal of winning a state championship is in sight for the top-ranked Grundy Center volleyball team.
But for now, the Spartans are focused on one match at a time.
The first match against No. 14-ranked Grandview Park Baptist ended in a three-game sweep Thursday night as the Spartans cruised to a 25-15, 25-18, 25-13 victory at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
Grundy Center sophomore middle hitter Stephanie Faust (9) splits the block put up by Emily Wolfe (2) and Maddie Thompson of Grandview Park Baptist during Thursday night’s Class 1A state volleyball quarterfinal match at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. Faust totaled six kills as the top-ranked Spartans swept the Defenders to reach the state semifinals for the third year in a row.
"We came out ready to go tonight," said Grundy Center senior Sam Meyers, who finished with a career-high 22 kills in the win. "It feels good to get this first one in the books and I think it helped the younger players with jitters."
The match started 2 hours behind schedule as several matches earlier in the day went the full five games. Every quarterfinal in Class 1A went just three sets, and the Spartans will meet No. 5 Janesville in tonight's semifinals. The Wildcats beat Stanton in their first-round match.
"They are well balanced, and have a lot of weapons," Grundy Center coach Darwin Sents said. "We will have to play well because I expect another tough match."
Thursday, Nov. 8
Janesville 25-25-25, Stanton 19-12-18
Tripoli 25-25-25, Le Mars Gehlen Catholic 19-11-21
Grundy Center 25-25-25, Grandview Park Baptist 13-18-13
Holy Trinity Catholic 25-25-25, Marquette Catholic 16-22-12
Friday, Nov. 9
Janesville (32-8) vs. Grundy Center (34-6), 7 p.m.
Tripoli (36-5) vs. Holy Trinity Catholic (44-4), 7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 10
Semifinal winners, 6 p.m.
Grandview Park Baptist was the first 1A team to reach 18 points against Grundy Center this postseason, but the Spartans controlled play throughout.
Grundy Center held an early 6-4 lead before Meyers came through with four kills in the next five points and pushed the Spartans lead to 10-5. Another 5-0 spurt later moved the advantage to 17-7 and Meyers eventually put the game away with two kills.
"Sam had a great night, but I thought all of our hitters had great nights," Sents said. "We did not have many errors tonight. Sam's ability to attack from the back row opened things up for some other hitters in the front row. We played well."
The Spartans jumped out to a 9-1 lead in the second game with Meyers and senior Riley Ackerman each collecting a pair of kills. Two more kills from Meyers and an ace from senior Heather Hook made it 13-5 and another small run by Grundy Center (34-6) pushed it to 20-12 following four kills from four different hitters.
Meyers ended the frame with a block and two kills and Hook turned in another ace for the seven-point win. Hook finished with 35 assists and five aces in the victory.
"It's great to get this one over with and out of the way," Hook said. "No game is guaranteed so we are happy with the win. We had high energy and high enthusiasm tonight."
The Defenders led 3-2 early in the final game and would not go away quietly, but the Spartans rolled off seven straight points to grab a big lead. The run came off Hook's serve and featured an ace as well as strong play at the net from Meyers, Ackerman and Stephanie Faust.
The two teams traded points for a while until Grundy Center used a short run to go up 18-8. Meyers had a kill and an ace during that spurt and then Ackerman, Peyton Ralston and Noel Saak led another run to make it 22-11. Hook scored a tip and Faust added a kill during the final stretch and the Spartans eventually finished off the match in three games.
With a tough match expected tonight and an extremely late start to Thursday's match, winning in three games was essential for the Spartans. They will face Janesville (32-8) at 7 p.m. tonight.
"You don't want to play until 11:30 so we are fortunate we were able to get it done in three tonight," Sents said. "Hopefully we can take advantage of the sweep and get some rest tomorrow.
"It was the same for both teams as far as the delay goes. The girls stay relaxed and it didn't seem to bother us too much."
Ackerman finished with eight kills, while Saak had seven kills for the Spartans, who have reached semifinal action in three straight seasons. Faust added six kills and Riley Sents had a team-high 10 digs. Hook had nine digs, while Meyers had seven and Ralston finished with six.
The Spartans finished with 11 aces in total and recorded 10 blocks. Meyers and Faust both had three blocks to lead the way.
"We had good ball control tonight and Heather puts the ball where she knows we can do something with it," said Meyers, who had 19 kills in the state tournament opener last season. "We played well tonight, but we have more work to do."
Grandview Park Baptist was led by Emily Wolfe's seven kills and seven digs and McKaylla Bell's 18 assists and seven digs.
The top four teams in Class 1A all won in straight sets Thursday night. Janesville will play Grundy Center, while four-time defending champion Tripoli will face second-seeded Holy Trinity Catholic. Both matches will begin at 7 p.m. Janesville also is making its third straight semifinal appearance at the state tournament.
"Janesville is a really good defensive team," Hook said. "We are going to have to bring our 'A' game."