CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa | It didn’t appear that way in the final statistics, but kills were coming in all directions from Council Bluffs St. Albert during Wednesday afternoon’s 25-17, 25-16, 26-24 sweep over Unity Christian in first-round Class 2A state volleyball tournament action at the U.S. Cellular Center.
Buena Vista University volleyball recruit Sydney McLaren, a 5-10 senior outside hitter, paced fourth-ranked Council Bluffs St. Albert (28-3) with 17 kills. Teammate Bailey White, a 5-10 junior middle hitter, added eight kills in a match between a pair of teams which each reached the state semifinals a year ago.
“Our defense is really good and our serve receive is really good,” said McLaren, an all-tournament selection from 2016. “That allows Lexie (Petry) to spread the ball around wherever she wants. Unity is a really good team. We came out and we played our best today. We just played really good all around.”
Petry dished 34 assists while directing an attack that hit .264 while defeating the No. 5 Knights. St. Albert joined Class 4A Lewis Central and 3A Kuemper Catholic as Hawkeye Ten Conference teams to reach the state semifinals.
Corrina Timmermans posted a match-high 20 kills for Unity Christian (24-11), which trailed throughout the first two sets. However, the daughter of head coach Patty Timmermans made the late portion of the final set interesting with three kills as the War Eagle Conference champions battled back from an 18-13 deficit.
Consecutive Timmermans kills forced a 23-23 tie. McLaren’s kill gave the Saintes a 24-23 lead, but teammate Kalyn Wettengel’s hitting error forced a 24-all tie.
Later, the combination of McLaren’s kill and a Unity Christian hitting error closed the match.
“We had to give it our all,” said Timmermans. “The first two sets were disappointing because we had lot of errors. We couldn’t really pass that well. Then when we started passing well and making less errors, we could put it away.”
Jori Bronner provided eight kills, three blocks and seven digs for the Knights while setters Erin Wierenga and Brooke Zevenbergen dealt 17 and 11 assists, respectively. Timmermans contributed 11 digs, two blocks and an ace serve.
Cori Franken had three blocks, one more than her Unity Christian teammate, Janie Schoonhoven. The Knights put up a good block, but had difficulty slowing down St. Albert’s attack, according to Coach Timmermans.
“Give credit to them, St. Albert was passing so well and ran their systems the majority of the night,” said Coach Timmermans. “We didn’t have that luxury quite as much. I think our serving game wasn’t quite as tough as we had recently. We weren’t able to take them out of their system.
“Especially in the third set, we gave it a good battle. I’m proud we fought until the end.”
Unity Christian, a traditional-rich program which has reached the state tournament 18 times, forced ties at 4, 6, 8 and 10 in Game 3. McLaren’s kill produced the 18-13 lead, but Corrina Timmermans kept on swinging, while Bronner and Schoonhoven’s combined block trimmed the deficit to 18-16.
The Knights came within one point three times before tying the set, including 21-20 on Bronner’s final kill of the match. Haley Hofmeyer also had an ace serve in the stretch.
Considering the fact that there were only three seniors (Hofmeyer, Franken, Anna De Haan) on the roster, the Knights could be a force in 2018 and make a third consecutive trip to U.S. Cellular. It would be a fifth state coaching appearance for Coach Timmermans while for her daughter along with Bronner, Wieringa, Zevenbergen and De Haan, it would be a third straight.
“It’s hard to say that in the locker room when you have some seniors sitting there, but the bulk of our team where we relied on this year was the junior class,” said Coach Timmermans. “So yeah, the future is bright. We have to remember that too. Still, this was such a great experience for this team to grow together and improve throughout the season. It was quite an accomplishment getting here.”