CEDAR RAPIDS – Defensive momentum can be one tough customer in volleyball.
Council Bluffs St. Albert has the defense, and it is bringing plenty of momentum into a date with No. 1.
In a Class 2A state quarterfinal matchup befitting a semifinal, the fourth-ranked Saintes posted an eye-opening sweep of No. 5 Unity Christian, 25-17, 25-16, 26-24, Wednesday at the U.S. Cellular Center.
“I think we were surprised,” said Council Bluffs St. Albert junior middle hitter Bailey White, who collected eight kills. “We knew it was going to be a tough game either way. We just came out really strong and that made the difference.”
Both teams are returning state semifinalists, but Unity Christian (24-11) could never string together a succession of points longer than three in any of the games.
“We’re never the tallest team in the gym, so we have to rely on our defense,” Council Bluffs St. Albert Coach Angie Lantz said. “We just knew if we were going to be able to keep the ball in play, based on their big hitters and get their hitters to change up how they were attacking the ball over the net, we knew that ultimately we were going to be able to take a little bit more control of the match and do with it what we wanted instead of being controlled by what their hitters were bringing over.”
Buena Vista recruit Sydney McLaren led the Saintes with 17 kills and added 10 digs. Junior libero Maggie Wettengel tallied a match-high 14 digs, while senior setter Lexie Petry dealt 34 assists.
“We’ve been playing really well all season,” McLaren said. “We’re a pretty diverse group and we’re all really good friends. That helps a lot. It always feels good to beat a powerhouse school like Unity.”
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With the victory, top-ranked Dike-New Hartford (48-3) awaits in a 2A semifinal, which will begin Thursday at 4 p.m.
Council Bluffs St. Albert (28-3) – winners of 14 of 15 matches – is in the 2A semifinals for the third time in seven seasons. The Saintes were swept by eventual state champion Western Christian last season.
“You just try to go out there and play the best match you possibly can against a very good opponent across the net,” Lantz said. “At state tournament, that’s what you hope every match is, is your best effort up to that point.”
Junior Corrina Timmermans led Unity Christian with a match-high 20 kills and added 11 digs. Bronner added eight kills and seven digs.
“They’re very aggressive, they didn’t let any balls drop,” Unity Christian junior Jori Bronner said. “They were up on the blocks and they were reading where it was going very well. I give a lot of credit to them.”
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