116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
It was an up-and-down opening day at the national volleyball tournament for Kirkwood Community College.
The seventh-seeded Eagles (35-9) began their day with a victory over 10th-seeded Moraine Valley (23-8) in five sets (25-19, 25-20, 21-25, 24-26, 15-9) at the Alliant Energy Powerhouse in the first round of the NJCAA Division II Volleyball Championships on Thursday.
The Eagles had four players with double-digit kills in the first match — Lexi Hearn, Ava Morris, Alyssa Tegeler and Allison Bonnette. Gracie Ehret led the team with 51 assists.
“Day one is big,” Kirkwood Coach Jill Williams said. “You have to win the first match. And we may have expended a little too much energy in that (first match). It sure would have been nice to win in three.”
In its second match, Kirkwood fell to defending national champion and second-seeded Parkland College (54-2) in the quarterfinal round in three sets (21-25, 14-25, 19-25).
“They’ve (Parkland) been in this situation, year in, year out,” Williams said. “Their confidence level grew, and they stressed us. They were confident with what they brought today. It’s amazing what confidence does.”
The Eagles battled hard in the first set, at one point going on a 7-0 run to take an 11-4 lead.
“We got a little bit excited, because we can play at that level,” Williams said. “We just weren’t consistent throughout the match and that’s what we had to have.”
Parkland bounced back with multiple runs of its own, ultimately taking the four-point first-set win.
The Cobras then took the second set handily and went on a 13-0 run to take a 21-9 lead in the third set.
That’s when Kirkwood showed its resiliency.
Coming out of a timeout, the Eagles rallied for eight straight to make it 21-17.
“We kind of had a little pep talk,” Morris said. “We talked about what we can do differently to make a difference.
Morris led the team in kills with six against Parkland.
“I think they have a lot of pride in who they are,” Williams said. “They didn’t want to go down. We dug a big hole and they recognized that. I think it was more about team pride there.”
After the loss to Parkland, Kirkwood will play Friday at 2:30 p.m. on Court 1 in a consolation round match.
The Eagles will shift their focus to finishing higher than they did in 2021.
“Our original goal was national champion,” Morris said. “We just need to win the next couple games because we want to end higher than we were last year in eighth. We want to be fifth.”
“We’re a very young team, and I hope we learned a lot about what it takes be that next level,” Williams said. “They’ve got a lot pride, a lot of fight in them. It’s just about bouncing back.”