Jays win second consecutive five-set nail-biter to advance to title game
CEDAR RAPIDS — Gehlen Catholic gutted out their second five-set victory in a row at the state volleyball tournament, this time knocking off Springville in a match that had even more drama than Wednesday’s five setter. While having to come from behind after dropping the first two sets on Wednesday against Tripoli, the Jays had 1-0 and 2-1 set leads before the Orioles fought back to ties after each set. The Jays fell behind and had to fight back to take the final set 16-14 to advance to the state championship game.
“I’m still in shock to be honest,” Kayla Mayer said. “It hasn’t sunk in yet that we’re going to be in the state finals. I’d always dreamed it would be like this, that we would get to this point. I knew coming into this week that it would be tough, that we’d have to dig deep and fight and be scrappy with everything. I’m really proud of how our team has reacted.”
“Unbelievable,” Gehlen Head Coach Mike Meyer described the match. “I didn’t think it was possible to top last night’s, but this one certainly did. I think while it was pretty awesome to come back from two-zip last night, we were in control of those last three games. These were back-and-forth and there were high moments and low moments. We had to come through in certain moments and we did.”
Katie Peters had a monster performance for the Jays, tallying 28 kills with a .431 hitting percentage.
“I just can’t believe it. It’s a great feeling,” Peters said of the win. “I think we had to show a lot of heart. Our front row and our back row they just clicked and we were able to get swings and kills. Even on our scramble plays, we were able to get points and that’s all it comes down to.”
It was a back-and-forth first set with 11 ties and eight lead changes, but Gehlen pulled away late for a 25-19 victory as a Sydney Livermore ace iced the set. Livermore led the Jays with 18 digs and also had six kills.
Gehlen actually had their most kills of the match in the second set with 15 as six different players found the floor, but the Orioles hit the same number of kills with a higher attacking percentage as they held on for a 27-25 win after leading by as many as six.
Back-to-back aces early in the third set by Brooklyn Heissel gave the Jays the jumpstart they needed to win 25-20. Meyer said his team’s serving was key in coming away with a victory.
“We came up with the tough serves,” Meyer said. “We served pretty tough and had a high number of aces for going up against the number two team in the state.”
Gehlen ended the night with 13 aces for the match while Springville tallied just a pair.
Springville had the momentum pushed in their favor in the fourth set as they pounded down 19 kills on a .514 hitting percentage in a set dominated by the Orioles from nearly start to finish with a 25-17 win.
That momentum nearly carried over to the fifth, but the Jays rallied to tie the match after trailing 10-7 and gained the win as Kayla Mayer was credited with the game-winning kill. Mayer was kept quiet most of the night as she didn’t record her first kill until the final set.
“It was frustrating to say the least to not have any, but I knew that I could do it,” Mayer said. “I’m down here at the state tournament for a reason, why not go for it.”
Gehlen (29-6) will see how much energy they have left as they try to claim a state title on Friday as the team goes up against top-seeded Janesville (36-7) at 7 p.m.
Peters said the game plan will be to try jumping out early and keeping the match short.
Mayer adds she hopes the adrenaline kicks in one more time on Friday night.
“I think we’ll definitely find it,” Mayer said. “The adrenaline of the atmosphere, just everything, you find what you need to get the job done.”