CEDAR RAPIDS — So now, the MVC Mississippi Division race comes down to two teams.
And one match.
Class 5A seventh-ranked Linn-Mar overcame a marathon fourth set — and 27 kills by Charlotte Richards — to outlast 4A No. 5 Cedar Rapids Xavier, 25-23, 25-22, 19-25, 33-35, 15-11, Tuesday night at Ron Thillen Gymnasium.
“The banner at school says the last time we won a conference championship was 1980,” said junior middle blocker Carly Spies. “We want it to say 2016. We’ve wanted that for a while.”
The Lions (20-5 overall, 5-0 division) can take the divisional title if they beat Dubuque Wahlert on Oct. 11 at home.
“That would be huge for these kids,” Lions Coach Teresa Bair said. “We’ve got a shot at it now.”
Xavier (23-4, 3-2) came back from a two-set deficit, erasing five match points in the fourth, including three straight starting at 24-21. Rachel Sodawasser served consecutive aces to get the Saints even at 24-all, and back and forth they went.
Finally, at 33-all, Xavier got back-to-back points on a block by Ellie McDermott and a kill by Lexi Noonan to prevail.
Richards slammed 13 kills in Game 4 alone.
Xavier led the finale 2-1 before Linn-Mar scored four straight points to take the lead for good. The largest margin was 11-6, then the Lions held on.
“We fought really hard,” said Spies, who collected nine blocks. “They had beaten us a couple times this season. We responded really well after they won (the fourth set). Coach told us to forget about it, it doesn’t matter any more.”
Emilee McGowan and Megan Renner posted 11 kills apiece to pace the winners. Spies added nine.
Richards staked Xavier to a 66-51 advantage in kills. McDermott added 18.
Linn-Mar was in decent position to close it out via sweep, holding a narrow margin throughout the first two sets. The Lions were even at 16-all in Game 3, then Xavier pulled away to extend the match.
LINN-MAR 3, CEDAR RAPIDS XAVIER 2 (25-23, 25-22, 19-25, 33-35, 15-11)
At Ron Thillen Gymnasium
Serving — Linn-Mar 112-117 (.957), Xavier 104-116 (.897)
Aces — Linn-Mar 11 (Emilee McGowan 4), Xavier 13 (Ellie McDermott, Rachel Sodawasser 4)
Kills — Linn-Mar 51 (McGowan, Megan Renner 11), Xavier 66 (Charlotte Richards 27)
Assists — Linn-Mar 48 (Ellie Anderson 27), Xavier 61 (Sodawasser 33)
Blocks — Linn-Mar 17 (Carly Spies 9), Xavier 6 (McDermott, Akeela Jefferson 2)
l Comments: (319) 368-8857; firstname.lastname@example.org