Cubs feast on Sailors

Story and photos by Joe Randleman
Cubs feast on Sailors

CEDAR RAPIDS - No. 4 Nevada simply had too many weapons for No. 9 Columbus Catholic in the Class 3A quarterfinals of the state volleyball tournament Nov. 11 at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.

Columbus Catholic took it to Nevada early. The Sailors focused on shutting down all-state Cub middle hitter Kati Cassabaum - a UNI recruit - and it threw Nevada off its game in the opening set.

But a battle-tested Cub roster wasn’t fazed.

Senior Erin Francis took advantage of the Sailors’ concentration on Cassabaum to dominate the second set. From then on, it was all Nevada as Abby Stephenson, Amaris Hornbuckle and Abby Bremer all stepped up at the net to help the Cubs roll to victory in four sets.

“We have a lot of good players on our team,” Cassabaum said. “It’s hard for other teams because we have so many weapons that they don’t know who to take care of.”

Nevada lost the opening set by a 25-22 score.

The Cubs fell behind 7-1 early, rallied to tie the score, but then saw Columbus Catholic go on a 5-1 run. Nevada tied the score back up at 21-21 following two Sailor errors, but Columbus Catholic again regrouped to score four of the final five points.

“The first game we came out really tight,” Stephenson said. “But that was a big focus for the second game - come out, play our game and not think much about it. Just do what we do best. We did the best regrouping this year to come back and take the win.”

In the second set Nevada took a 14-10 lead midway through the match. Francis then came up with five big kills to help Nevada push its lead to 24-16; an Amaris Hornbuckle kill finished off a 25-17 Cub victory.

“They showed resiliency and a little grit,” Nevada head coach Will Baumann said. “It was a great time to show those characteristics.”

The third set began a lot like the first as Columbus Catholic surged ahead by a 10-3 score out of the gate. But back-to-back blocks helped Nevada tie the score at 13-13, and the Cubs eventually went in front by a 16-15 score on a Hornbuckle ace.

Nevada didn’t trail again in the set as three Francis kills and an Abby Bremer block closed out a 25-20 triumph.

With all the momentum on its side, Nevada coasted in the fourth set. The Cubs took an early 9-4 lead, pushed it to 21-11 and ended up with a 25-16 victory.

“It’s always good to get in there and get the first game out of the way,” Stephenson said. “Now we can keep going on.”

Stephenson had a big match. She recorded 15 kills against just two attack errors and picked up 25 digs and five blocks.

Francis led Nevada with 16 kills. She also delivered 15 digs and four blocks.

Cassabaum ended up with seven kills and five blocks. Hornbuckle put up five kills and she was the team’s top server by going 23 of 23 with five aces.

Bremer came through big defensively with six blocks. She also had three kills.

“I think we have five legitimate attackers,” Baumann said. “Teams can choose to focus on who they want and that’s fine because we’re going to have other kids that step up. We’re a team in a true sense of the word.”

Gillian Tupper handed out 37 assists and she also came away with three kills at setter for Nevada. Libero Chloe Davis put up a team-high 27 digs and Megan Anderson chipped in 10 digs for the Cubs.

Columbus Catholic finished the season at 20-15. Lauren McManus had 22 kills and 16 digs, Anna Sinnott picked up 13 kills, Amber Koch dished out 41 assists, Kate Shannon came away with 21 digs and Sydney Shannon went 16 of 18 serving with two aces for the Sailors.