CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa | Katie Peters may have been tired, but she didn’t show it.
Peters was one of nine Gehlen Catholic volleyball athletes on the floor who proved adrenaline defeated fatigue in the closing moments of Thursday night’s Class 1A state tournament semifinal match. She and her teammates played a five-game match for the second straight night at U.S. Cellular Center.
“It’s all within the heart,” said Peters, who provided 28 kills, 12 digs and three blocks while leading the third-ranked Jays to the 1A state finals following a grueling 25-19, 25-27, 25-20, 17-25, 16-14 win over No. 2 Springville in a match that took an hour and 49 minutes to complete.
“It’s a game of heart at that point. And I think at the end, we had more heart. We wanted it. (Springville) was tough, but that’s the kind of competition we knew we were going to have down here. It’s just a great feeling beating someone like that.”
“I just hope we can get rested enough so we can kind of regroup and have a strong effort tomorrow,” said Gehlen Coach Mike Meyer. “We always talk how it’s your brain that tells your body you’re tired and you keep focused on the task at hand. You’re amazed at what you can do sometimes. I know we were tired. I thought I saw that in the fourth game. Then when it got away from us, I said, well, we’ll have to get them in the fifth. Fortunately, we did.”
Krista Lipp provided eight kills and four blocks for Gehlen, the last of four Northwest Iowa teams which will play for state championships Friday. Sydney Livermore contributed six kills, 30 assists, 18 digs and two ace serves, fellow setter Anna Britt dished 21 assists while Chloe Bunkers and Brooklyn Heissel each had 12 digs for a squad that will take a 29-6 record into a 7 p.m. title match against No. 1-ranked and two-time defending 1A champion Janesville (36-7).
Samantha Johnson recorded 16 kills for Springville (39-3), which is described by Meyer as the best 1A team his squad has played the last two years. Teammates Alyssa Jaeger and Rylee Menster each added 12 kills for Coach Claude Howard Jr.’s team, which held a Game 3 advantage, but led from start to finish in Game 4.
Gehlen battled from a 10-7 Game 5 deficit to force a tie at 10 on Langel’s kill, then used Peters kills for advantages of 12-11, 13-12 and 14-13. Mikayla Nachazel’s 11th kill of the night for the Orioles tied the set at 14, but a Springville attack error and Kayla Mayer’s kill gave the Jays a victory which improved their season record against 1A competition this season to 16-0.
“Definitely this morning, we were feeling (tired),” said Mayer. “We got loose, then we iced a lot and then we came ready to play. (Springville) definitely knew where to come at us. Their hitters were smart. They knew where to put the ball. They knew how to hit around the block. We really had to read them and figure out where they were going to put the ball.”
Meyer said serving was another key for the Jays, who will make their first title match appearance since 2011 when they fell to Tripoli, a match that incidentally, was preceded by a 3-1 win over Janesville. Bunkers delivered four of the team’s 13 ace serves while Mayer and Heissel each added three.
The Jays’ 12th-year veteran coach was impressed with Springville setter Madi Wagaman (44 assists), whose passing to her hitters sometimes seemed to freeze his middle blockers. However, he credited his back row, led by Bunkers, the latest of three Gehlen liberos from the same family, including Karly Bunkers, who still holds the 1A state tournament record of 38 digs in the five-game loss to Central Lyon back in 2015.
“(Gehlen) didn’t give up,” said Howard. “This is what we told our kids going into this game. We were looking at some film and talking about them. The thing that impressed me in their match against Tripoli was they never gave up. Down 0-2, they kept working and working and working. I knew we were going to have a battle on our hands. Regardless of their situation, they get after the ball.”