No. 3 Gehlen holds off upset-minded rival RSM in regional semifinals

Tuesday, October 25, 2022
(Photo By Roy Tucker) Gehlen Catholic’s Aurora Goebel attacks the ball around the RSM block in Monday’s match. She finished with 11 kills in the match, matching for the most on the team.

LE MARS – Tips weren’t going to do it in this kind of match. No, the hits had to be hard, they had to be placed well and they had to be smart. Volleyball teams from Gehlen Catholic and Remsen St. Mary’s were thinking the same thing during Monday night’s Class 1A regional semifinal at Deb Campbell Memorial Gym.

Miyah Whitehead and Aurora Goebel each slammed 11 kills while leading third-ranked Gehlen Catholic to a 25-23, 25-20, 25-17 victory.

Whitehead, who hopes to play in her fourth straight 1A state tournament next week at Coralville, said she and her teammates were careful about how to hit around the Remsen St. Mary’s block.

“Remsen does put up a big block,” said Whitehead. “When we get to hit, sure, we want to swing away, but you have to smart in placing. We have done a lot more talking with each other, like the back row talking to the front row about what’s going on. We talk about where the open spaces are.”

“We have been practicing hit around the hits a lot,” said Gehlen Catholic Coach Dan Goebel. “We saw a lot of that tonight between the blocking, which was fought through better tonight than we have all year. Our hitters were making good decisions. If we got blocked, which we knew was going to happen, we were going to swing away the next time if we had a shot. We weren’t going to get scared and start tipping.”

Gehlen Catholic will take that same kind of attitude into Wednesday night’s Class 1A Region 1 final at Denison. The squad will take a 22-7 record and a goal of a sixth consecutive state berth when they face Riverside (32-5), which advanced with a 25-19, 20-25, 27-25, 22-25, 16-14 thriller over No. 11 Stanton.

Remsen St. Mary’s (20-7), which had goals of making the program’s first state berth since 1984, received eight kills from Claire Schroeder while Mya Bunkers and Whitney Jensen each added six. When Bunkers wasn’t swinging away, she dished 21 assists for Coach Stacy Bunkers’ squad, which nearly rallied for a Game 1 triumph.

The Lady Jays were at game point, leading 24-18 after Whitehead and Cadence Goebel teamed up to block Jensen’s kill attempt. However, two straight Schroeder kills began the Hawks’ comeback. Jensen’s ace serve, followed by Octavia Galles’ kill, lifted the visitors from eastern Plymouth County within 24-23. However, Rysaiah Sitzmann’s kill gave the home team the win.

“We knew we couldn’t let ourselves get in our heads,” said Coach Goebel. “If we made an error, we’d have to shake it off. We knew we’d have to want that ball, we’d have to control our game. We made the choice to do that.”

Remsen St. Mary’s received two straight ace serves from Carmindee Ricke for a 16-15 Game 2 lead, while Mya Bunkers’ kill forced a 19-all tie. However, a combined Whitehead/Cadence Goebel block of Schroeder, followed by two straight Hawk hitting errors gave Gehlen Catholic the lead for the rest of the set.

Later, the Hawks rallied from a 13-7 Game 3 deficit for a 16-16 tie on Galles’ kill. However, two straight Jayden Barthole (4 kills) kills were part of a 9-1 run that gave the hostesses the sweep.

Cadence Goebel supplied 27 assists, eight digs, two ace serves, four block assists and one solo block for the Lady Jays. Sophie Ruden had 23 digs while Whitehead had one solo and three assisted blocks.

Gracyn Schroeder converted each of her 11 serve attempts for the Hawks while Mya Bunkers was 10-of-10. Claire Schroeder and Mya Bunkers each recorded three double blocks.

(Photo By Roy Tucker) Tessa Tentinger sends an attack over the net against Gehlen Catholic on Monday. Tentinger ended with four kills, one of six players for Remsen St. Mary’s who finished with at least four kills in the match.

“We have nothing to hang our heads low about,” said Coach Bunkers. “I’m proud of their commitment. We had something special. Something we have that no other team has is teamwork and I define teamwork as a family. That is honestly, what we are, a family. They gave it their all and played great volleyball. I’m proud of them. They changed the tempo a ton. They did a ton of different hits that they had really, really been working on. We didn’t have as many blocks as I would have liked. We could have worked more on movement on our feet when the ball was hit on the block. Communication was up and for the most part, our serving was on.”

The Hawks had two seniors, Gracyn Schroeder and Olivia Pottebaum, on their roster.

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