Volleyball team fights to five-set finish

By: Zuhayr Alam

The volleyball team’s season ended last Thursday after a heartbreakingly close loss to Bettendorf High School.

The Tigers arrived at State after beating Marshalltown in a hotly contested game. After winning the first two sets 31-29 and 26-24, the Tigers lost the third set 26-24. The Tigers rallied late in the fourth set to win with a score of 25-23 and advanced to the semi-finals with a final score of 3-1. The Tigers headed to the U.S. Cellular Center ranked 3rd in the state.

Sophomore Taylor Lynch said she was ecstatic.

“It was really exciting. We were all really happy, and it was just an awesome feeling,” Lynch said. “Words can’t describe how I felt when we won.”

Senior Emma Gerdes enjoyed getting to play with her sister.

“It was really exciting. I knew we could make it to State all along,” Emma said. “Being able to go with my sister was really fun because it was the last time we’ll play together.”

The first game at State, a quarterfinal, pitted the Tigers against the Kennedy Cougars, a team that had beaten the Tigers earlier this season. Similar to the previous game, this game was an incredibly intense contest. The Tigers won the first two sets at 25-22 and 25-20. The Tigers then lost the next set 16-25 before coming back and winning the final set 25-20 to advance to the semi-finals with a score of 3-1.

Senior Erin Hendrickson said she was elated to make it to the next round.

“When we won the first game, the whole team was so excited because we made it to the semi-finals and we knew we were good enough to possibly win the next game.” Hendrickson said.

Head Coach Matt Johnson agrees with Hendrickson.

“Winning the Kennedy match was awesome. That was definitely as excited as I have been after a volleyball match in a long time,” Johnson said. “Our girls had been thinking about that opportunity for six weeks and were absolutely ready for the challenge of beating them.”

With hundreds of students travelling to Cedar Rapids, the Tigers played the State semi-final on Thursday against the Bettendorf Bulldogs.

The Tigers spent a large part of the near two-hour game playing from behind, losing the first two sets at scores of 22-25 and 19-25.

Emma was nervous after going down 0-2.

“I was very nervous to be honest. I thought we were done,” Emma said. “I didn’t want to lose in three, and I know that no one else did either. We tried to spark a rally after that, and tried to win each point one at a time.”

Emma’s sister, sophomore Claire Gerdes, agreed.

“I was feeling a little discouraged, but I tried to push that to the side,” Claire said. “I didn’t want the next set to be the final set.”

Johnson never lost confidence in the team.

“Even though we had lost the first two sets, I felt like momentum was starting to turn and we were getting Bettendorf to take some tired swings,” Johnson said. “I had a ton of confidence in our players because they had been in tough situations in the past and responded very well.”

And respond well they did. The Tigers were able to pull off a remarkable comeback winning the next two sets 26-24 and 25-21.

Hendrickson was ready for the fifth set.

“When the fourth set ended, I knew that we had a very great chance of winning the game. Our excitement was up and the momentum was going our way. We just had to fight through one more set,” Hendrickson said. “I think what sparked our rally was our determination to win. We weren’t going to give Bettendorf an easy win.”

But unfortunately, the momentum wasn’t to last. After going up early in the fifth set, the Tigers’ momentum died out and Bettendorf managed to escape with a 15-9 win, advancing to the final with an overall score of 3-2.

But Johnson was proud of the team.

“As a competitive person, I was bummed that we lost, but I was also extremely proud of the way our players handled adversity and responded when things got tough. I was satisfied that our players had done everything in their power and left everything on the court,” Johnson said. “I’m disappointed that I’m not going to have the chance to coach our seniors anymore.”

Burken said she wanted more.

“I was disappointed. Scratch that. Disappointed is an understatement. I felt that I let my team and the seniors down, and I wish that I could have done more,” Burken said. “It was hard realizing that we didn’t reach our goal and that we were so close to it. We worked hard all year and put so much effort into getting as far as we did, and it was a letdown to know that we didn’t finish the way we wanted.”

Senior Alicia Harrington credits the fans for making the trip to Cedar Rapids.

“I think that the fans really motivated me and the team,” Harrington said. “Being able to look up and see all the people cheering and believing in me was amazing and motivated me to play the best I could.”

Lynch is proud about the season as a whole.

“We got to State, so I feel like it went really well, and I feel really happy about it. Hopefully we’ll be back next year as well,” Lynch said. “I think we played really well. We came together as a team. A lot of people stepped up.

Johnson will leave next year’s goals up to the team.

“My goal is to make sure the girls are enjoying being part of our program and are having fun,” Johnson said. “I would guess based on how this season went and the great junior and senior classes that we will have, the goals will be pretty high.”

Claire looks forward to the future.

“Next year, the goal is to make it to the state tournament again, and to hopefully do even better than this year.”

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