SIOUX CITY | The hoped for matchup between the top two finishers at the Heelan Volleyball Classic didn't happen Saturday but fans and players likely won't have to wait long for the showdown.
Missouri River Conference regular-season champion Sergeant Bluff-Luton and league runner-up Bishop Heelan were the only undefeated teams on the day in the 12-team event, each going 5-0.
It would take a major upset in the MRAC tournament opening rounds to deny a rematch of the teams Monday in Sergeant Bluff. The Warriors have won two previous matchups with the Crusaders, including a four-set win in the regular-season finale last Tuesday.
Both teams were tested in their final matches of the day, with the Warriors sweeping Western Christian 21-13, 23-21 and the Crusaders downing Sioux Falls Washington 21-19, 21-18.
The win over the Wolfpack was a milestone for SB-L coach Renee Winkel, who won her 100th career match. It was the first win after two earlier losses to Western Christian.
"That was fun, they are a great caliber team and one we wanted to have," said Winkel of the win over Western Christian. "I'm proud of the way my team came out and played and brought the energy today."
Senior Kylee Christensen, already SB-L's all-time leader in kills, added 39 more to her tally in Saturday's matches, including 10 in the win over the Wolfpack. Classmate Lexi Sneller, the Warriors' setter, had 75 assists on the day.
"It was awesome today, I'm so proud of how we played today and how we continue to push ourselves," said Sneller, who along with Christensen are the lone seniors on the SB-L squad.
"Kylee and I both love our team, we know how we play right now prepares us for in the tournaments ahead."
Madison Harms had 20 kills and nine blocks for the Warriors (36-3) while Kenzie Foley had 33 digs and 16 kills. Libero Abby Minten and Maya Schmidt also had 30 and 29 digs, respectively, for SB-L.
The Crusaders earlier handed No. 1 Sioux Center (Class 3A) a 23-21, 21-19 setback for its only loss of the day and decided the Gold Division of the Classic. Junior Nicole Jacobson powered the Heelan attack in the win over Sioux Center with 13 kills while senior Alex Hope had a block on match point to end the contest.
"We work together well as a team," said Hope, one of fourth seniors on the Heelan team. "This team really gets going on runs and that gets me fired up.
"We've been working hard and we'll bring our all to the conference tournament."
Coach Mary Miller's team improved to 29-9 on the season without losing a set on Saturday.
"We had three really good practices this week," said Miller. "We had three goals: to hit better around the block, to play defense better and to hit better."
"To knock off No. 1 Sioux Center, that was a big win for us. We are starting to get some intimidation kills which freeze up our opponents."
Senior Sam McCabe powered down 35 kills on the day for Heelan while Jacobson had 30 and Hope 20. Allison Bermal and McCabe each had 34 digs while Emma LaFleur had 48 assists and Jordyn Knapp 36.
The Crusaders, ranked third in Class 4A and SB-L ranked sixth, could meet beyond the upcoming MRAC tourney as both teams have been assigned to separate regionals, which could lead to a state tournament meeting.
Unity Christian, No. 7 in Class 2A was 4-1 on Saturday, losing its only match 21-10, 21-15 to SB-L. The Knights took a showdown with second-ranked Western Christian 10-21, 21-18, 15-9 earlier in the day and Coach Patty Timmermans War Eagle Conference champions improved to 21-10.
"Our main goal against Western Christian today was just to compete with them," said Timmermans. "Too many times when we have played them, we have given up way too easily."
"Even though we didn't get the first set, we kept our minds at it and were able to get things turned around."
Juniors Jori Bronner and Corrina Timmermans, the attack leaders all season for the Knights, had 46 and 44 kills on the day while Erin Wieringa had 70 assists.
Youthful East was winless on the day but showed some life under new coach Kati Steffen, taking Unity Christian to three sets before falling in the final match of the day.
Steffen, the current Woodbury Central softball coach and a former Morningside volleyball standout, took over for Lisa Rembe who was in her fifth year at the Black Raiders helm.
"We had been working hard to put in 100 percent effort on every play and in every practice," said Steffen, who has had three practices with her new team after taking over Tuesday and was coaching her first game action.
Junior Kirstin Sykes had 31 kills to lead East (13-26) while freshmen Lineya Wells and Riley Donahue added 14 and 10 kills, respectively. Josie Blake had 39 digs and Chloe Kramer 72 assists for the Black Raiders, who will also participate in the MRAC tourney Monday.
Western Christian, No. 2 in Class 2A, finished 3-2 on the day, downing No. 5 South Dakota AA Sioux Falls O'Gorman as well as East and Ridge View.
The losses Saturday were the second to an Iowa team this season for the Wolfpack (35-6), who previously dropped a match to West Des Moines Valley at the Urbandale Tournament and three contests to Nebraska squads at the Bellevue Tournament.
Coach Malina Ard's North team ended up the day 1-4, winning a 21-10, 21-19 verdict over Lawton-Bronson.
The Stars (18-21) got 29 kills from Grace McLoud and 24 from Kylee Eickholt, who also had 26 digs. Hailey Hoogers had 43 assists and 23 digs for North, which also will be at the MRAC tourney Monday.