By Chris Umscheid
North Liberty Leader
IOWA CITY– There was no treat for the West High Women of Troy this Halloween Night as they faced the Cedar Rapids Jefferson J-Hawks in a Class 5A regional semifinal match.
West fell 3-2 to Jefferson, ending the season and advancing the J-Hawks (19-21-0) to a regional final with Pleasant Valley (27-6-0) Tuesday night, Nov. 5, in Davenport. The winner will advance to the state volleyball tournament, Nov. 12-15 at the US Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.
The J-Hawks had two things going for them: one was their standout player Amanda Ollinger, who made 44 kills and leads the state. West coach Kathy Bresnahan summed the other up succinctly.
“We didn’t execute our game plan. It was a bad night to have a poor match.”
West started out down 0-2 in the first set when a Mollie Mason kill put them on the board. Still trailing, a Madi Miller ace serve made it 7-8 and a Hannah Fairfield kill tied the set at 13. The Women of Troy pulled ahead and built a 19-16 lead, prompting J-Hawks coach Mary Kay Van Oort to call a time-out. The blue birds rallied back to trail by one at 22-21. Bresnahan called for a time-out and again after the birds had pulled ahead 23-22. A series of errors at the end made it 25-23 Jefferson.
The ladies in green built a 21-15 lead in the second set before Van Oort called for a cease-fire to talk things over with her crew. But West continued to pour it on and took the set 25-16. In the third game, the Hawks were up 6-2 when Laynie Whitehead unleashed a kill, sparking a West High rally and a 7-7 tie on to a Mikaela Morgan kill. Following a 10-10 tie and West timeout, the Women of Troy rallied and took the set 25-19. There was some controversy as Jefferson fans and coaching staff were less than thrilled with the referees’ calls in the set.
In the fourth and up 2-1, West took an early lead with a kill by Fairfield, ace serve by Miller and a kill by Morgan. A Mason kill made it 9-6 while a Whitehead kill made the score 13-9. Jefferson continually chipped away at the West High lead, narrowing it to 17-15 in favor of West and prompting Bresnahan to take a pause.
When play resumed, Emily Halverson tipped the ball over for an 18-15 lead and Mason made it a four-point game with another kill. Again though, late errors cost the squad dearly as Jefferson closed the set with a 27-25 win sending the match into its fifth and final set.
“I said if it went (to) five (games), they were probably going to beat us,” Bresnahan said.
Lizzy Klemme opened for West with an ace serve, answered by Ollinger with a kill and a 1-1 tie. Fighting for their postseason lives, the Women of Troy hammered-out a 7-3 lead and drove the Hawks into a timeout. Up 10-4 West again watched their opponents call for a timeout. This time the momentum shifted and the blue birds roared back to narrow the gap.
Whitehead blocked an Ollinger kill giving West a 13-11 lead, but an error made it 13-12 before three kills in a row from the sophomore Bresnahan described as “a Big Ten-caliber player” sealed West’s fate and delivered the 15-13 set win and 3-2 match win to Jefferson.
“We knew she was excellent,” Bresnahan said of Ollinger. “The problem was, we weren’t hitting the ball where we should’ve, so she shouldn’t have had that many swings. We weren’t terminating.” The coach also pointed out in the post game post mortem, “Two of our better players had their worst night of the year. We just didn’t execute.” She called the 2013 campaign, which ended in a 26-10-0 record, an “average season. We had some good moments, it was nice to beat City.”
“This is the first time an un-ranked team beat us. Was this the biggest upset in our history? No. We knew they were good. You wouldn’t have known we had a scouting report, because we didn’t execute it. Give Jefferson credit, and it wasn’t just Ollinger, they played lights-out defense.”
The Women of Troy will lose Fairfield, Toni Martins, Klemme, Mason, Abigail Brown and Veronika Graves to graduation.
Serving: CR Jefferson 98-104 (.942), IC West (.946)
Aces: CR Jefferson 7 (Kayla Jaschen, Keanna Pledge 2), IC West 5 (Madi Miller, Toni Martins 2).
Kills: CR Jefferson 61 (Amanda Ollinger 44), IC West 57 (Mikaela Morgan 19, Mollie Mason 14).
Assists: CR Jefferson 50 (Kaylie Zitek, 48), IC West 48 (Laynie Whitehead, 32, Lizzy Klemme 13).
Blocks: CR Jefferson 3 (Cierra Maas 2), IC West 21 (Morgan 7, Ali Tauchen 5).