Hinton beats Denver in 2A state quarterfinals

Tuesday, November 1, 2022
(Photo By Roy Tucker) Hinton celebrates their win over Denver in the 2A state quarterfinals on Tuesday. They won 3-1 at Xtream Arena.

CORALVILLE --- Hinton won 3-1 over Denver in a Class 2A quarterfinal match at the state volleyball tournament at Xtream Arena on Tuesday.

While fifth-seeded Denver had played in the previous two state tournaments, the Cyclones didn't have the advantage of knowing the atmosphere of the venue being the first year at the new site which is also the home court of the Iowa Hawkeyes volleyball team.

Ashlyn Kovarna, setter for the fourth-seeded Blackhawks, said she enjoyed playing at the venue.

"The atmosphere made it way better," Kovarna said. "It was a high-tension game. We knew they would battle because we beat them the first time. That just made it more fun. I donít even know what to say. It was just a lot of fun."

(Photo By Roy Tucker) Ashlyn Kovarna sends a ball over the net for the Blackhawks. The Hinton setter had six kills to go along with her 44 assists.

In a rarity for two teams separated by four hours to have met once already prior to the state tournament, the two teams had met earlier this season at a tournament hosted by Western Christian on Oct. 8.

Hinton co-head coach Robin Mohr said it was great to have an idea about the Cyclones entering the state tournament.

"Out of the teams at Western, six of the eight were highly ranked. It was great that we got to see Denver," Mohr said. "We had heard a lot about them coming in, about how they are a powerhouse and they play with Dike and to beat them there gave us a little more confidence. To see the other teams there like Des Moines Christian, that was great. We played right with them. It led us into the postseason on a great note and with a lot of confidence."

That meeting in October saw the Blackhawks fall behind after losing the first set 21-15. Hinton fought back to win the next two by scores of 21-17 and 15-13. At the time, Hinton was ranked No. 7 and Denver was No. 4 in the class.

Kovarna said the team drew on their experience from their first meeting in the quarterfinal round match.

"We knew what they were going to do coming in," Kovarna said. "We knew their game plan. We knew what we had to do and we just executed it."

The two teams played close throughout the first set, playing within a point of each other until Denver took a 9-7 lead in a frame which saw 11 ties and five lead changes.

Hinton took the lead at 15-14 with an ace serve from Carlene Hicklin and from there, the Blackhawks were able to maintain the advantage the rest of the way. Hicklin's ace was one of seven in the match for the Blackhawks while Hicklin ended second on the team with eight kills.

Kills from Kovarna led to timeouts at 18-15 and 22-19 as the setter also ended with six kills while leading the team with a .455 efficiency. Bailey Boeve earned one of her four solo blocks of the match to clinch the 25-20 win.

Hinton held early leads of 3-0 and 8-4 in the second set, but Denver answered each of those with 4-0 runs. The second set featured seven ties and two lead changes, but Hinton found some separation on an ace serve from Aubree Lake followed by an attacking error by Denver, one of their 26 hitting miscues in a match in which they hit .139, and the Cyclones called timeout trailing 17-14. Hinton maintained a slim advantage and won the second set 25-22 as Natalee Junck finished off the frame with one of her seven kills in the contest as she hit .300 for the match and tied with Avery Burgad for third on the team in kills.

(Photo By Roy Tucker) Avery Burgad sends an attack against Denver in the quarterfinal round match. She finished with seven kills and two block assists in the win.

Denver came out firing in the third set as they scored the first three points and forced a timeout at 7-2. The Cyclones had their best hitting frame of the match going .370 in the third. Denver found plenty of success as they fed the ball to Kayla Knowles for 28 kills in the match.

Hinton did make a late push, getting consecutive kills from Boeve followed by an ace from Gabbie Friessen, one of her team-leading three in the match, to force a timeout at 23-17. However, Denver finished off the third set with a kill from Lexi Gehrke to win 25-18.

Mohr told what the message to the team was after losing the third set.

"We just talked about things we needed to do better," Mohr said. "Passing the ball, covering the floor, getting to our blocks. It wasnít like we were out there after the third one telling them a lot. They knew. They knew what they had to do. We have to get to our blocks. We have to attack. We didnít attack in the third set. We have to keep them off their offense and keep on ours."

It was the first time all season the Blackhawks had to go past three sets as all of their other matches were either sweeps or 2-1 contests. While a new situation to be in, the Blackhawks responded well.

"The third game when we got down we just lost all our confidence it felt like," said Kovarna, who finished with 44 assists. "We started tipping it. It didnít really work out for us. But we came back for the fourth set and it was lights out. We could see it in the third set that it was so close and we just lost focus and didnít finish."

Hinton was able to flip the script from the third set in their favor in the fourth as they forced a timeout up 7-2 in the fourth before pulling away for the win. Hinton had just one attacking error in the fourth set as they finished the contest with a team kill efficiency of .271. Boeve knocked down kills for the final three points of the 25-13 win as she capped off a 22 kill performance while hitting .370 for the match.

"Once we started to get our passes up, our serve receive was better," Boeve said. "We were in system more and we could just fire away with our swings."

Denver finished the season with a 36-11 record.

Hinton will take a 27-2 record into Wednesday's semifinal contest against top-seeded Dike-New Hartford (44-2).

Boeve said she's ready for the next round.

"Now we just want to go win again," Boeve said. "We want to bring it our all. We want 100 percent on the court and play as a team and just display our passion for volleyball."

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