116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Kirkwood Coach Jill Williams has witnessed the increased energy during the last month.
The Eagles were charged for their national tournament debut.
“It’s been fun to be in that position and see the team grow,” Williams said. “When they have that fun energy, you know they trust the process and believe in what they’re doing.”
Fifth-seeded Kirkwood demonstrated that power in a first-round victory in the NJCAA Division II Volleyball Championships on Tuesday afternoon at Alliant Energy PowerHouse. The Eagles swept No. 12 Neosho County (Kan.) Community, 25-16, 25-13, 25-11, advancing to Tuesday night’s quarterfinal.
“I think I say it like a broken record but it’s a serve-and-pass game,” Williams said. “Out of the gate, I think there were some nerves. We missed more serves and our passes weren’t putting us in system. Once we settled into it, we got in our offense and we looked pretty good.
“I was just happy with the overall performance from everybody.”
The match started as a close affair, but the Eagles pulled away and never looked back after taking an 11-9 lead. Key blocks from Jada Golden-Smith and Rachael Nelson provided an early boost.
“It gave us some energy and made them change,” Williams said. “You don’t have to block every ball but if you’re getting them to hit the ball to your libero, Alli does a good job at digging the ball then turn around and Anna’s putting it away, it’s exciting.”
Kirkwood won eight of the next nine points, including two kills and an ace from Anna Gorsich, who led the team with 11 kills and matched Nelson for a team-high three aces.
The Eagles jumped to leads of 8-1 and 13-2 in the second and third sets. The balanced attack was too much for the Panthers (16-9).
Katie Kopriva and Maggie Peters had eight kills apiece. Emily Strauss and Golden-Smith added six and five, respectively. Nelson had 31 assists.
Kirkwood will face No. 4 Johnson County (Kan.) in the semifinals Tuesday night. The Cavaliers (24-2) edged No. 13 Pima (Ariz.) Community College, 25-18, 25-18, 21-25, 23-25, 15-7.
Third-ranked Iowa Central made quick work of No. 14 Carl Sandburg, winning 25-15, 25-12, 25-19, in the first round.
Other first-round winners were No. 1 Illinois Central, second-seeded Parkland, No. 6 Catawba Valley and 10th-ranked Sauk Valley, which swept No. 7 Walters State, 25-13, 25-16, 25-19. Eighth-seeded Gulf Coast State also reached the quarterfinals.