116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Halle Everett embraces Parkland College’s sky-high standards.
The red-shirt freshman and her teammates are accustomed to national title expectations instead of aspirations. It shows in their daily effort and the results in competition.
“There is a tradition that speaks to much more than just as the players,” Everett said. “It’s just our culture. We just come in the gym every day. We work as hard as we can.
“Our expectation is we’re going to be the best that we can be and we’re going to try our best to win every match.”
Second-seeded Parkland swept No. 3 Iowa Central, recording a 25-22, 25-17, 25-17 Wednesday night in the semifinals of the NJCAA Division II volleyball tournament at Alliant Energy PowerHouse. The Cobras reached the finals for the third straight time and eighth overall.
“It’s super exciting,” Everett said. “We don’t want to sit back and be happy with what’s going on. Obviously, we’re super thrilled but our goal is to go win tomorrow. Our mindset is to stay focused on that – our end goal.”
Parkland has been an annual contender since 2013. The Cobras have reached the final for the seventh time, winning titles in 2015 and 2016. The only time they did not play for the championship resulted in a third-place finish in 2017.
During that stretch, Parkland Coach Cliff Hastings had the luxury of returning players with nationals experience. This season, however, only setter Summer Smith, who had 43 assists against Iowa Central, played for the 2019 runner-up team.
“My expectations, Parkland’s history of expectations can weigh heavily,” Hastings said. “Summer has led them very well to understand that expectation and this is a new journey for them to take.”
The way the Cobras closed each set helped them defeat the Tritons. Parkland won six of the last nine points in the first two sets and seven of the final 10 to end it.
Everett and teammate Hailey Sperling ranked second and ninth in kills. They powered the Cobras, who finished with an astounding .458 kill percentage. Everett led the Cobras with 17, while Sperling had 16. Many came at crucial times to maintain or regain momentum.
“Hailey and Arika (Richardson) take a lot of pressure off Halle from trying to be the go-to all the time,” Hastings said. “Hailey really played some amazing volleyball tonight. She acted like a leader as a freshman, so I was very impressed with what she did.”
Iowa Central reached the semifinals for the first time and is assured of its best finish. All-American Kealey Anderson led the Trojans with 17 kills. Alesha Johnson added 27 assists.
The Cobras will face No. 4 Johnson County, preventing a chance to avenge their only loss of the season. After surviving two straight five-set victories, the Cavaliers (26-2) knocked off top-seeded Illinois Central, 25-23, 25-21, 25-21.
Mikayla Powell led Johnson County with 13 kills and Kallie Fenscke had a team-high 20 assists with two aces. Illinois Central (22-2) struggled offensively with a .058 kill percentage.
Fifth-seeded Kirkwood began consolation play Wednesday afternoon and suffered its second straight loss for the first time this season. Gulf Coast State topped the Eagles, 25-18, 25-20, 26-28, 25-22.
Kirkwood (19-6) started strong, producing a five-point rally for a 5-2 lead, but the Commodores controlled the rest of the match, posting a five-point streak and taking five of the final eight points. Gulf Coast used a similar stretch to close the second set.
The Eagles finally displayed energy in the third, erasing a 19-16 deficit with five consecutive points. Maggie Peters and Katie Kopriva teamed for a block and Anna Gorsich kills sandwiched one by Kopriva to make it 21-19. Gorsich added another kill in Kirkwood’s last two points.
The Commodores scored seven in an eight-point stretch to take an 18-13 lead and never trailed again.
Emily Strauss led the Eagles with 14 kills, Gorsich finished with 13 and Kopriva added 12. Jada Golden-Smith had four blocks and Peters had three. Rachael Nelson had 40 assists for the Eagles, who play for seventh place Thursday at 11 a.m.