CEDAR RAPIDS — The Janesville Wildcats don’t have to travel far to find quality regular-season competition.
“There are so many great teams around our area,” Bree Thompson said. “We make each other better.”
That can make the postseason feel like child’s play.
Top-ranked Janesville remains the small-school volleyball standard; the Wildcats swept No. 3 LeMars Gehlen, 25-14, 25-16, 25-19, Friday night at the U.S. Cellular Center for their third consecutive Class 1A championship.
For the second straight year, Janesville swept its way through the postseason without dropping a set.
“We don’t take anybody lightly,” said Thompson, the all-tournament captain. “When we play who we play (in the regular season), we might take some losses, but it prepares us for later in the season.”
Janesville (37-7) is one of four state champions within a 20-mile radius, joining Dike-New Hartford (2A), Waterloo Columbus (3A) and Cedar Falls (5A). The Wildcats bump into those teams regularly at Saturday tournaments.
“You just have to tip your hat to (the Wildcats),” Gehlen Coach Mike Meyer said. “Other teams are physically bigger than them, but they cover so much better than most teams.
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“They’re quicker, they’re more athletic and they’re more fundamentally sound.”
The Wildcats’ first major push came midway through the first set, a 16-2 haymaker that turned a 10-7 deficit into a 23-12 advantage.
They followed with a 12-1 run to take control of the second set, and a five-point run to snap a 13-13 tie in the third.
Thompson hammered 18 kills and was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Alisa Bengen and Kennedy Meister, as well as Gehlen’s Chloe Bunkers and Katie Peters, Springville’s Madi Wagaman and Fort Madison Holy Trinity’s Emily Box.
Gehlen finished 29-7.
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