Scrappy Cubs fall to No. 1 Pella in 4A state quarterfinals

Joe Randleman, Sports Writer
Nevada's Morgan Tupper goes for a kill against Pella's Emily Holterhaus (left) and Kiki Pingel during the opening set of the Cubs' Class 4A state quarterfinal match with the Lady Dutch Tuesday in Cedar Rapids. The No. 9 Cubs fell to the No. 1 Lady Dutch in three sets.

CEDAR RAPIDS - For two sets, a shorthanded No. 9 Nevada team gave No. 1 Pella all it could handle in the Class 4A quarterfinals at the state volleyball tournament Tuesday.

But the Cubs were unable to get over the hump in either set, and they sputtered in the third set to come up short of their bid to win a second-consecutive state championship.

Nevada was without senior outside hitter Chloe Davis, who suffered a season-ending injury in the Cubs’ regional semifinal match with Bondurant-Farrar two weeks ago.

Freshman Morgan Tupper stepped into Davis’ role and performed admirably, especially since Tupper herself is just coming off an ankle injury. But Pella simply had too many weapons for the Cubs, pulling off the sweep by scores of 25-20, 25-23 and 25-15.

“They’re a great team,” Nevada all-state outside hitter Abby Stephenson said. “We kind of maybe needed more time to adjust not having Chloe there. If we had one more week to give Morgan a couple more reps, that would’ve been great just for the team chemistry. (But) she played great today — coming out and playing fearlessly.”

In the first set Nevada fell behind 4-0, but rallied to take a 16-14 lead. Pella eventually took back the lead at 21-19 after two Nevada errors and the the Cubs didn’t have an answer the rest of the set.

The Cubs came out strong to start the second set. A Gillian Tupper kill, followed by a Pella error, gave Nevada a 15-11 lead midway through the set.

Nevada still led 21-18 late in the match after a Kacie Rewerts kill. But Pella eventually tied the score at 23-23 after a Cub serving error and then a kill by Natalie Clayberg and an ace from Kiara Bradley finished off a Lady Dutch victory.

The tough loss in set two took the wind out of Nevada’s sails. In the third set, Nevada fell behind big in the middle of the match and never fully recovered.

Pella put up nine blocks against Nevada’s attack. The Lady Dutch also had a .216 kill-efficiency rate to the Cubs’ .014 rate.

“Part of it was their height — something we’re not used to,” Nevada libero Kelsey Wiederien said. “They got a lot more touches on balls than we normally used to seeing, so that was something we had to adjust to.”

Emily Holterhaus had 15 kills and three blocks and Clayberg put up nine kills for the Lady Dutch. Jenna Murphy finished with 18 digs and Kiki Pingel handed out 33 assists.

Stephenson had eight kills, 14 digs and three assists in the final match of her outstanding career for Nevada. Gillian Tupper recorded 20 assists, nine digs and five kills; Rewerts totaled five kills; Hattie Rhodes put up four kills and two aces; Wiederien contributed 19 digs; Morgan Tupper delivered three kills and Skye Borton finished with 11 digs and two kills.

Nevada finished the season at 29-14. After losing a lot of talent off last year’s 3A state championship team, the Cubs came out with something to prove this season.

Nevada showed it is an elite volleyball program by overcoming all the losses off last year’s team to make it back to state for the fourth year in a row.

“We proved a lot of people wrong,” Gillian Tupper said. “Losing all the seniors from last year — a lot of people I feel doubted us making it this far. I’m so proud of the team. We’ve had a lot of new players on the team and they’ve adjusted really well and played really well the whole season.”

Pella will take a 37-4 record into Thursday’s 4A semifinals versus either Bishop Heelan Catholic or Charles City.