Riverside upsets No. 3 Gehlen Catholic in regional final
DENISON — Unranked Riverside upset Class 1A No. 3 ranked Gehlen Catholic in a regional final contest on Wednesday. The Bulldogs earned their first trip to state in school history with a 3-1 win over the perennial power Lady Jays who were seeking a sixth state tournament appearance in a row and their 15th overall.
“It’s just a heartbreak,” Gehlen Head Coach Dan Goebel said. “I think we came into this knowing it was going to be a tougher team, but we just didn’t respond probably in some of the areas we needed to to control our own game. When we got excited, we got excited and that was good to see, but we let the overall momentum shift to their favor and just didn’t control it in ours.”
Gehlen jumped to a 4-1 lead with all four of the points coming from Riverside errors. After that, the Bulldogs settled in and took control of the first set. Veronica Andrusyshyn dropped in an ace to put the Bulldogs in front 6-5 and a block from Elly Henderson forced Coach Goebel to burn his first timeout with the Jays trailing 10-6.
Gehlen used their second timeout trailing 17-12, but did score the next three points out of the break as they attempted to get back into the contest. Aurora Goebel had four of her team-leading 21 kills to help the team get as close as two points, but Riverside went on to claim the frame with back-to-back kills from Andrusyshyn, part of her team-leading 20 kills, finishing off the 25-19 first set win for the Bulldogs.
“They were able to swing. I don’t think we were expecting them to hit as well as they did,” Coach Goebel said.
Gehlen used a nice serving run from Cadence Goebel, who led the team with three aces and 30 assists, to pull in front in the second. An ace tied the score at 10-10 and the team went on to pull in front by a score of 18-10 with the senior at the service line. Aurora Goebel forced a timeout with her kill to make it 13-10. Cadence Goebel added two more ace serves for the 14th and 17th points as she finished 25-of-26 on serves in the contest.
Sister Aurora added an ace as Gehlen was just five points away from tying the match leading 20-13, but the Bulldogs came racing back. Riverside went on a 13-2 run as Andrusyshyn had back-to-back kills to tie the score at 22-22 and then take the lead at 23-22. Miyah Whitehead got a tip for one of her 10 kills in the match to knot the score at 23-23, but the Bulldogs scored the next two points to win, getting kills from Andrusyshyn and Elyssa Amdor.
“We had the momentum. We thought we were controlling it, but we got out of our serving and they took control of the game from there,” Coach Goebel said. “It was just a matter of us staying composed and controlling our own game and we just couldn’t do that well enough.”
Gehlen had their most complete frame in the third as they staved off elimination with a 25-14 win. Cadence Goebel again had a nice serving run to get the Jays out to a 10-4 lead before Mack Olmstead-Mitchell got one of her nine kills for the Bulldogs to end the run.
The Jays didn’t let this lead slip away as they extended the match as a kill for Kate Bonderson sealed the win.
“I was proud of them for that,” Coach Goebel said of the third set win. “They really pushed through hard on that. I think they gave it their all. They put everything out there. They knew it was they end and they pushed hard. We put the best out at the end I think, but we need to do that earlier. It was just too little, too late.”
Riverside pulled away from an 11-9 lead in the fourth set by scoring the next nine points as Gehlen used both of their timeouts in the stretch. Gehlen’s defense finished with five players with double digit digs, led by libero Sophie Ruden and Cadence Goebel with 21 apiece. Jasmine Lubben added 16 while Aurora Goebel and Larissa Pohlen each had 14 digs. Still, the Riverside attack proved to be a little better, helped out by a better efficiency of .126 compared to .059 for the Jays in the match.
Gehlen put together one last-ditch effort, getting an ace serve from Rysaiah Sitzmann followed by a kill for Whitehead to force a Riverside timeout trailing 22-15. Riverside Head Coach Brooke Flathers got her team to regroup for the final few points to clinch the match, using a kill from Andrusyshyn, an ace serve from Sophia Taylor and a kill from Henderson to secure the win.
Gehlen finishes the season with a 22-8 record. With six of those eight losses coming to state qualifying teams and one win over 4A state qualifier Bishop Heelan, Coach Goebel said there’s nothing for the team to hang their heads about this season.
“I told them to hold their heads high,” Coach Goebel said. “I mean if they put everything out that they felt that they had, they had nothing to be ashamed of and to hold their head down about. I’m proud of them for the way they played this year. We came on strong at the end this year and a lot of them made some really good improvements in their game. We just didn’t execute all that we needed to tonight, but there’s nothing to be ashamed about about their season or about the way they played.”
Coach Goebel said he relied heavily on a senior class of Sophie Ruden, Jasmine Lubben, Cadence Goebel, Jayden Barthole and Miyah Whitehead in his first year as head coach and thanked them for their work.
“They’re a great group of girls,” Coach Goebel said. “They’re leaders in their own way. I leaned heavy on them this year coming into this. They were able to really step up and be leaders in different areas and different ways.”
Riverside (33-5) gets the No. 8 seed in the 1A state tournament and will face top-seeded Springville (37-3) in the state quarterfinal round at 6 p.m., Tuesday, in Coralville.