CEDAR RAPIDS - At first it looked as if there was no stopping Nevada in its Class 3A quarterfinal match with Red Oak at the state volleyball tournament Nov. 13.
The Cubs, seeded sixth in the tournament, entered the match having won 19 of 20 matches and playing as well as anyone in the state. They performed at that same high level most of the first set against the third-seeded Tigers.
Nevada jumped out to a 9-5 lead. Then they went up 16-9 on a Shelbi Hazlitt kill that landed just on the line.
Then Kacie Rewerts slammed down a kill that put the Cubs up 20-12.
And then everything fell apart.
Red Oak went on a 14-4 run to stun the Cubs, 26-24. The Tigers never looked back, dominating the second set (25-15) then holding off a late Nevada comeback attempt in the third for a 25-19 victory to sweep the Cubs and advance to the semifinals against second-seeded Kuemper Catholic.
“I’d say in that first game we were running off our momentum, but we talked about earlier in the locker room that it can easily switch,” Nevada senior outside hitter Kaice Rewerts said. “That’s what it did. We made some errors there and they got on a run. We couldn’t come back from that.”
In the first set a Sophie Walker ace pulled Red Oak within 21-20 and then a Nevada error tied the score. The two teams went back and forth, with Kacie Rewerts coming up with a couple kills and Chloe Johnson recording a pair for Red Oak to keep the score even at 24-24.
Then Walker came up clutch again, hammering down a kill for a 25-24 Tiger lead. Nevada followed with an error to give Red Oak the victory.
Nevada head coach Jonny Sneiderman never called a timeout during Red Oak’s big rally.
“I’m going to remember that timeout I brought home with me for for years,” Sneiderman said. “I looked up at the scoreboard and I was surprised by our lead. Then back-to-back runs happened and I went to charge up for a timeout and I looked and I saw the score said nope, one more. That’s coaching. I’ve taken a ton of risks this season and that was one I wasn’t willing to take.”
Red Oak was relentless for the rest of the match.
The Tigers took a 13-7 lead to start the second set. They eventually built a 19-8 lead on a Walker kill and led 24-12 on an Allie West ace before coasting home to victory.
In the third set Red Oak raced out to a 13-3 lead capped by a Johnson kill. Nevada pulled within 13-7, but Red Oak quickly pushed the lead out to nine points with another Walker kill giving the Tigers a 21-12 cushion.
Nevada did give Red Oak a little scare down the stretch of the third set. A Rewerts tip kill, and Ellie Gray ace and Hannah Thomsen kill along with a couple Tiger mistakes enabled the Cubs to pull within 23-19 late.
But Lexi Johnson converted a long tip over the Cub back line into a point and then Nevada was long on an attack to close out the win for Red Oak.
“We were hurting ourselves,” Nevada setter Morgan Tupper said. “We made a lot of mistakes and they put the pressure on us. When the momentum switches it’s really hard to get it back.”
Nevada finished with just 28 kills against 24 errors in 119 attacks. Red Oak had 44 kills and 17 errors in 127 attacks.
“We’ve worked really hard being disciplined and playing in system and we were just rarely in system,” Sneiderman said. “Our passing made it hard for Morgan and when things are hard for Morgan it stresses our hitters a little bit.”
Nevada had 61 digs and six blocks on defense. Red Oak finished with 60 digs and five blocks.
“In terms of defense they’re short and they know it so they play deeper and they just try to get a hand of stuff. A lot of small towns play what I like to call old-man ball, where the second ball shoots to a corner or just some garbage plays and everything went right for them today.”
Rewerts had a match-high 17 kills and added 13 digs and two blocks in her final match. Tupper finished with 26 assists, eight digs and one block.
Hazlitt and Hannah Thomsen each had three kills and Sydney Mosinski and Katelyn Kingsbury two apiece for Nevada. Gray matched Rewerts with 13 digs, Maddie Dunham added eight, Kingsbury six and Erin Coogler four.
Nevada ended the season at 33-10. The Cubs made huge strides after going 22-18 last year and even with the lack of execution the effort was always there against Red Oak.
“We tried our best to come back,” Tupper said. “That’s what I’m most proud of.”
Walker had 14 kills and digs apiece, Lexi Johnson 17 digs, 10 kills and three blocks and Chloe Johnson nine kills and eight digs against Nevada. Ellie Rengstorf, Abbey Jones and Chloe DeVries combined to dish out 33 assists for the Tigers.
Red Oak fell to Kuemper Catholic in five sets during the semifinals on Nov. 14 to end up with a 34-7 record. Mount Vernon defeated Kuemper Catholic on Friday to claim the 3A state title.