Nevada knocks off 12th-ranked Roland-Story in Class 3A high school volleyball regional semifinals
This is the match Nevada wanted.
Roland-Story had been a thorn in the Cubs' side over the last two years. The Norse defeated Nevada during Heart of Iowa Conference play each season to lay claim to the conference championship.
This year's match was especially painful for Nevada. Roland-Story won a five-set thriller at the Nevada High School Field House.
When the Cubs found out they were going to be in the same regional bracket as the Norse they immediately set their focus on returning the favor.
Nevada almost got caught looking past Ballard in the regional quarterfinals, rallying for a five-set victory over the Bombers Monday. But the Cubs got the job done and could set their sights on the Norse.
Things didn't go well at first. The Cubs looked completely overmatched in dropping the first set, 25-14.
But from then on it was all Nevada. The Cubs won the next three sets in convincing fashion to stun the No. 12 Norse during the Class 3A regional semifinals Wednesday at Story City.
"They're really good and we knew we had to come with our best tonight," Nevada senior middle blocker Shelbi Hazlitt said. "It feels really good."
After losing the first set Nevada pulled off back-to-back 25-18 victories to take charge. The Cubs went up 21-13 in the fourth set then held off a late Roland-Story charge to score a 25-21 victory and advance to the regional finals.
"It was our energy," Nevada middle blocker Lily Goos said. "I think that's probably the best team chemistry we played with all season."
Goos came up huge in the decisive fourth set.
Goos recorded two blocks and kills apiece as part of a 6-2 run that gave Nevada a comfortable 18-11 lead. Her second block came off a kill attempt by Norse all-state setter Madison Geise to put Nevada up six and Hazlitt followed with a kill to cap the big run.
"I knew that set was pretty much the deciding factor," Goos said. "I tried to play for my team."
Maddie Dunham had an unbelievable dig in the back row to keep the big run going. Dunham ran all the way back to the wall near the Nevada student section and got enough on the ball with her hand as she was facing away from the net to get it to libero Dakota Hendricks.
Hendricks then set the third volley over the net and Roland-Story eventually ended up getting the point.
"Every day in practice we say no wood — never let the ball hit the floor," Dunham said. "That's what I try to do. I go for everything."
Roland-Story fought its way back to 23-21 behind a strong serving stretch by senior libero Ally Ringsby. But Nevada regrouped in time to close out the match, with senior Maddie Dunham finishing it off with a tip kill from the outside.
"After that first set I had all the confidence in them," Nevada head coach Jonny Sneiderman said. "They were prepared for this matchup. They were some things we knew were going to be thrown our way and we handled them."
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Roland-Story ended its amazing season with a 29-8 record.
"I'm so proud of this team," Roland-Story head coach Molly Geise said. "The progress they have made from August until now is amazing. I don't think anyone expected us to have 29 wins and beat five ranked opponents this season. The senior leaders were so welcoming to the younger players that it allowed them to grow fearlessly. One match doesn't define this season for us."
Madison Geise and Reagan Barkema were the two dominant forces for Roland-Story all season. The senior duo bowed out with tremendous efforts in defeat, with Geise recording 22 assists, 11 digs and six kills and Barkema 14 kills and 11 digs.
"Reagan and Madison were four-year starters and were leaders from the first day," Molly Geise said. "They grew into being two of the very best captains that any coach could ask for. They grew as players and performed every roll that was needed from them."
Nevada takes a 21-21 record into next Tuesday's regional finals. The Cubs face off against eighth-ranked Des Moines Christian (35-6) for the right to go to state.
Nevada faced Des Moines Christian back on Sept. 4 in a tournament at Mount Vernon. The Cubs were clobbered in the first set, 21-11, but came back with a 21-16 victory in the second then pushed the Lions to the limit in the rally game before falling, 15-13.
"In the middle of that match is when I tried a new lineup and they lost 15-13 in the third set," Sneiderman said. "I'm excited to see film on them. Their coach is really great and they've got a good program. It will be a fun match."