116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The timeless 'one point at a time' adage can often come off as a bit trite, but when describing Thursday's Mount Vernon-Union volleyball state semifinal, the phrase unfolded in front of everyone.
Top-ranked Union dropped its first game, then persevered through three hard-fought games and outlasted No. 7 Mount Vernon, 16-25, 25-20, 29-27, 32-30, Thursday at the U.S. Cellular Center.
'We just wanted to outwork them,' Union senior middle hitter Bri Harvey said. 'They outworked us last time, and that's all there was to it so this time we knew that's what we wanted to do and push through every point.'
Union (40-4) has won 18-straight matches since being swept in two games by the Mustangs on Oct. 1. After Mount Vernon comfortably claimed the first game, it initially appeared like more of the same for the Knights.
'Just let it roll off our shoulders,' senior outside hitter Megan Hudson said. 'People come out slow first games, and then you come out and play your game in the second and third. That's what we did. … We came out and played our game and played well through the match.'
From there, the teams played to a 13-13 draw in each of the final three games with a bevy of ties and lead changes to arrive at each final score. Union broke the 13-13 deadlock in Game 2 with 12 of 19 points to even the match at a game apiece. In the pivotal Game 3, the end of the 13-13 stalemate involved 13 ties and 12 lead changes until a pair of Hudson kills won it for Union, 29-27.
The dramatics only elevated in the fourth game as the Mustangs scratched to try to force a fifth. Mount Vernon and Union totaled 14 more ties and 14 additional lead changes until the Knights survived, 32-30.
'That's been a big part of our season,' Hudson said. 'Play it one point at a time. We were down a point, it was set point several times. That doesn't stop us, that doesn't make us give up. It makes us push harder.'
Hudson led the Knights with 26 kills, while senior outside hitter Peyton Parker added 25. Setter Maggie Driscol chipped in 23 digs and 56 assists.
Union will meet second-ranked Dike-New Hartford (47-5) in the state championship match Thursday at 2:30 p.m. Union defeated the Wolverines in five games earlier this season.
'They're going to come and they're going to battle,' Union Coach Brian Jesse said. 'They're going to be real disciplined and do all the little things. They've really got a terrific defense, so we're going to have to have a good match to come out on top.'
Wynne Vandersall led Mount Vernon (34-8) with 14 kills and added 11 digs, while Libby Ryan collected 18 digs.
'They were really aggressive the whole entire game,' Vandersall said.
The loss ends a standout prep career for Vandersall, Ryan, Sydney Meeker and Kaitlyn Volesky. All were four-year starters for the Mustangs. Volesky tallied 11 kills, while Meeker added 12 digs.
'They were four points better than us in those last two sets,' Mount Vernon Coach Maggie Willems said. 'Credit to them, but for us to make sure that once we mourn our loss, which they should do, to make sure we feel good about the season we've had and the performance that we put on the court today.'
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