DAVENPORT, Iowa -- The first two sets of Tuesday’s Class 3A Region 7 semifinal between Davenport Assumption and West Liberty were about as close as they could be.
Both sets were nip-and-tuck battles, with both squads taking a set while neither rattled off more than four points in a row.
But in the third set, with the score tied 8-8, the host Knights finally got some separation from the pesky Comets. Sophomore Kylie Welch served three aces and junior Anna Vonderhaar added three kills as Assumption scored eight straight points to take control of the set and, ultimately, the match. The Knights won by scores of 26-24, 22-25, 25-15 and 25-23.
“We were all just getting really hyped as a team,” Welch said. “We got excited, and it was just point after point. After we got that lead, we wanted to stay excited and stay on top.”
Assumption (25-8) advances to face ninth-ranked Beckman in a regional final in Anamosa on Monday. The Comets season ends at 22-14.
Welch had four aces in the third set, and Lindsay Stratman, who led the Knights with 15 kills in the match, began to figure out the Comet's defense. She had four kills in the set, mostly tipping around and over the lanky Comet front line.
“I kept getting blocked the whole night because they were really good defensively,” Stratman said. “They knew where I was hitting, so I needed to change it up and throw in some tips.”
The fourth set was another close battle, and West Liberty led 22-20 after a Brianna Morales block and the Knights were whistled for being in the net. But after an Assumption timeout, the Comets missed a serve before Stratman hammered down back-to-back kills. Assumption setter Lea Nelson caught the Comets off guard with a quick tip to finish off the 25-23 win.
“She got a little frustrated throughout the night,” Assumption head coach Bre Scherler said of Stratman. “She was reaching a little bit higher on her swings and she was avoiding the block a whole lot better than she was the first few sets. Lindsay is that player who can snap out of it in a second and she really does step up for our team and make those key kills.”
Scherler said she and her Knights felt lucky to win the first set of the night. West Liberty led 24-22 and was serving game point, but the Comets were whistled for being in the net on back-to-back points. Then Nelson served an ace, and another poor service receive allowed the Knights to rally for the 26-24 win.
“We had some controversial calls there and it kind of took us out of system,” West Liberty head coach Ruben Galvan said. “We had the momentum, and that kind of shifted there. I’m not going to put the whole blame on that, but it had something to do with that.”
The Comets came back to pull out a win in the second set. Morales had kills in four of her team’s final five points to even the match.
But then the Knights were able to swing the momentum back to their side, and this time for good.
“I think they turned their frowns upside down,” Scherler said. “I know it sounds cheesy, but they just played volleyball and remembered they’re really good when we relax. It was just taking the pressure off. I think it was just a bunch of nerves, and finally we settled into the things we do well.”