CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- For a school playing in its first state volleyball tournament in two decades, the Comets of Boyden-Hull had no cause for regrets as they bowed out Friday night with a semifinal loss to top-ranked Tripoli, the three-time defending Class 1A state champions.
Tripoli, 38-3, advanced with a 25-21, 25-13, 25-22 sweep, but it was anything but easy for the Panthers and their star player, Megan Gilbert, a 6-1 senior who hopes to finish off her high school career today with four straight state championships.
Gilbert, headed for the University of St. Louis, managed 15 of her team's 37 kills as Tripoli advanced into a 5 p.m. state final against No. 2-ranked Le Mars Gehlen Catholic, the rival that pushed them to five games in last year's semifinal round.
"It was a really fun match,'' said Gilbert. "Boyden-Hull worked really hard. They should be happy because I know they played their hearts out. You could tell in that last game.''
Fourth-ranked Boyden-Hull, bowing out at 28-4, trailed 17-9 in that third set before charging all the way back to tie it at 22-22. However, Gilbert sandwiched a kill and a block around a Comet hitting error to give the winners the final three points and the match.
"One break one way, one break another way and we might have got that first or third game,'' said Boyden-Hull Coach Dean Hoogeveen, whose team had leads of 15-14 and 17-16 in the first set. "The girls played hard. They played well and I'm real proud of them.''
Sixth-year Tripoli Coach Will Baumann, a native of Washta whose mother, Marlene, led River Valley to a regional final against Gehlen Catholic, offered high praise for Boyden-Hull, whose only previous trip to state came in 1991 with Hoogeveen at the helm.
"I don't think we got in rhythm offensively all night,'' said Baumann. "But Boyden-Hull's a good team and you've got to give them credit for keeping us out of our rhythm. Props to them. They've got a great squad and they kept bringing it at us.''
Allison Te Slaa, a 5-9 junior, collected 15 of the Comets' 32 kills while Kassidy Van Voorst had 26 assists and matched Whitney Vander Maten for team honors on defense, each with 13 digs. Nichole Ewoldt added 11 digs and six kills, followed by Vander Maten with five kills.
"I thought maybe a little bit of the difference was size,'' said Hoogeveen. "Boy, they just blocked us to death, especially that second game.
"My concern was when our girls were watching that first game yesterday, when Tripoli got up 22-0 or whatever (in a 25-1 first-set rout of Woodward-Granger), I was worried they'd be thinking they're unbeatable. But I thought we showed them that first game that we played right with them.''
Courtney Anderson had eight kills and Bailey Kirchhoff seven to back up Gilbert on offense for Tripoli. Defensively, Kirchhoff and Gilbert shared honors for the Panthers with 13 digs.
Baumann, who had a state tournament team at Galva-Holstein while still finishing up school at Buena Vista, also served as an assistant at Bishop Heelan to his brother, Gabe, a former Heelan head coach.
Friday's win was his 200th against just 40 losses in six seasons since taking over a tradition-rich Tripoli program that heads into today's finals with nine state titles over the last 12 years.