SPORTS

Linn-Mar owns the MVC Mississippi Division

Volleyball: Lions sweep Wahlert for first league title since 1980

MARION — The last time this happened, Linn-Mar was still a rural school. The year was 1980. And the league was the East Central Iowa Conference.

“Thirty-six years was way too long,” Ellie Anderson said. “The banners here kind of told the story.”

It was the story of a lengthy title drought. And now, it’s over.

Class 5A fifth-ranked Linn-Mar captured its first Mississippi Valley Conference divisional volleyball championship Tuesday night, sweeping aside 4A No. 2 Dubuque Wahlert, 25-12, 25-19, 25-21.

“Ever since I got here, we’ve talked about relentless pursuit,” said Lions Coach Teresa Bair, who was honored before the match for her 100th win in four years here. “Where do you want to go in volleyball? Where do you want to go in life?”

On the court, they’ve made it to the top of the Mississippi Division. They played at a championship level Tuesday — and not just a divisional-championship level.

“We were all really confident,” Anderson said. “We had a plan, and we executed it.”

Maybe the Lions (25-8 overall, 6-0 division) don’t have someone like Wahlert’s Mackenzie May, a blue-chip UCLA recruit. But they dug her enough, blocked her a little, and didn’t beat themselves.

That, and a balanced attack, equated to a surprisingly easy victory.

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Linn-Mar set the tone with an 11-1 run that allowed them to race away from a 7-7 tie in the opener. The second set was deadlocked at 14-all before the Lions broke it open.

Carly Spies started the surge with a kill, Emilee McGowan followed with another, then Spies blocked May and the Lions were on their way to a two-set lead.

Wahlert (18-5, 5-1) turned an 8-2 deficit into a 20-17 lead in the finale before Lions made the final, decisive move, scoring eight of the last nine points.

Ellie Von Lehmden’s kill got the Lions to match point, then her block clinched it.

“It’s just a great feeling,” McGowan said. “When Coach started here, we were toward the bottom of the conference. To be at the top ... it’s just great.”

May led all attackers with 17 kills, but Linn-Mar’s balance carried the day. Von Lehmden, Spies and Megan Renner collected nine kills apiece. Anderson distributed 23 assists.

LINN-MAR 3, DUBUQUE WAHLERT 0 (25-12, 25-19, 25-21)

At Linn-Mar

Serving — Wahlert 50-53 (.943), Linn-Mar 67-73 (.918)

Aces — Wahlert 2 (Jenna Gremmel, Krystal Tranel), Linn-Mar 8 (Ellie Anderson, Emilee McGowan 3)

Kills — Wahlert 33 (Mackenzie May 17), Linn-Mar 43 (Ellie Von Lehmden, Carly Spies, Megan Renner 9)

Assists — Wahlert 32 (Gremmel 30), Linn-Mar 41 (Anderson 23)

Blocks — Wahlert 3 (Carolyn Conlon 2), Linn-Mar 7 (Spies, Anna Gorsich 2)

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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