CEDAR RAPIDS — Clarion-Goldfield-Dows’ Morgan Middleton made things difficult for the Wilton Beavers in the Class 2A state volleyball quarterfinals in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday.
As in record-setting difficult.
Middleton set a Class 2A state tournament record with 34 kills during the Cowgirls’ three-set win over the Beavers, 25-23, 25-20 and 25-17.
With Middleton setting the tone for the Cowgirls (30-6), Wilton’s Ella Caffery came out very aggressive. Throughout the season, Caffery showed an ability to get kills and assists in great volume, but she often took the role of distributor.
“When we were down early, we knew that we had to find the energy to fight back,” said Caffery. “We knew (Middleton) was a big hitter, but we didn’t know she had that many shots.”
“Watching on film, we talked about how we were going to close our block,” Kelsey Drake said. “(But) it just wasn’t connecting as much tonight, and (Middleton) did a great job of hitting around us.”
Caffery (six) and Drake (four) combined for 10 kills in the opening set but together still didn’t match Middleton’s dozen. Still, the Beavers (35-4) found a way to come back and make it difficult for the Cowgirls to get out of that first set.
“In every set, I felt that there were runs that we needed to try and control,” Beavers head coach Brenda Grunder said. “I felt that we battled back in every set. The effort was there, the desire was there. … We tried different things; we just fell a little bit short.”
The more the game wore on, the more composed the Beavers looked. While controlling Middleton was problematic throughout, the Beavers were able to dig out a few more of her big swings in sets two and three.
However, OGD found another way to give the Beavers fits over the last two sets via the serve. Jadyn Jondle finished with a match-high five aces, with four coming as part of the Cowgirls’ seven-ace effort over the final two sets.
The second set played out much like the first, with Clarion-Goldfield-Dows grabbing an early 6-1. A Caffery kill pulled the Beavers within a single point at 11-10, but CGD responded. Wilton forced a Cowgirl timeout after the Beavers obtained some measure of momentum in making it 23-18, but kills from CGD's Kendall Lienemann closed it out, putting the Beavers behind the proverbial 8-ball.
“The game’s not over until 25,” Drake said. “No matter what the score (was), we were going to keep pushing.”
The third set started with a reversal of roles as Wilton raced out to a 5-0 lead with Taylor Garvin holding serve.
But when CGD snatched the lead at 15-14 after back-to-back Jondle aces, the signs that Wilton’s season was coming to a close started to show. Caffery’s final kill pulled the Beavers within four at 21-17, but it ended up being their last point of the season.
“It’s not even being proud of (our effort),” Wilton senior Taylor Garvin said, “it’s about being proud of being here, at the state tournament. … I would have never thought at the beginning of the summer that we would be here. I’m so proud of my team.”