Prep Volleyball

Ankeny blocks Liberty in 5A state volleyball championship match

Lightning start slow, end a memorable season at 24-3

CEDAR RAPIDS — Maybe some of it was the residual effect of an emotional match the previous day.

Most of it, though, was Ankeny.

The second-ranked Hawkettes put a big block on Iowa City Liberty’s front line and topped the No. 5 Lightning, 25-21, 25-17, 21-25, 25-19, to win the Class 5A state volleyball championship Thursday morning at the Alliant Energy PowerHouse.

“The game plan for me and Aowyn (Schrader) was to block line on (Liberty’s Cassidy Hartman),” said Ankeny’s Phyona Schrader, the all-tournament captain. “Our blocking has been solid all season.”

Ankeny won its fifth championship, its first since the school split with Ankeny Centennial.

“I wasn’t thinking about the program, the past or the future,” said Schrader, a Notre Dame commit. “I was thinking of now, and this team.”

The Hawkettes finished 22-2.

Liberty (24-3) is in its fourth year of existence. The Lightning were making their second straight state appearance and was in the championship match for the first time.

“We played way more defense than we wanted to play,” Liberty Coach Randy Dolson said. “Ankeny is big, the tallest team we’ve faced all year.”

Coming off a grueling five-set victory over No. 1 West Des Moines Dowling in the semifinals, the Lightning were on their heels through the first two sets.

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“It was hard to find holes against them,” said Hartman, who followed Wednesday’s 35-kill masterpiece with 18 kills Thursday. “We came out a little nervous. At the end, we wanted to give it our all and end on a good note. I think we did that.”

Liberty had a 13-12 lead in the opener and was still in it at 16-16, but Aowyn Schrader’s block concluded a three-point Ankeny surge that put the Hawkettes in control.

Game 2 was all Ankeny, which scored 12 of the first 15 points.

The Lightning led through most of the third set, and broke away from a 16-16 tie with the help of three straight Ankeny errors.

An offspeed attack by Shelby Kimm and a laser by Sam Harvey ended the set.

Seeking to send the match to a fifth set, Liberty had leads of 13-11 and 16-15 in Game 4. But McKenna Scheib posted three kills and a block, and Phyona Schrader delivered back-to-back aces in a decisive 9-1 run that put the Hawkettes on the brink.

The all-tournament captain, Phyona Schrader had nine kills, 40 assists and 23 digs. She was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Aowyn Schrader and Ava Reynolds, Hartman and libero Addie Schmierer from Liberty, Kora Ruff of Pleasant Valley and Emerson Thelen of Dowling.

Reynolds led the Hawkettes with 17 kills.

“(Ankeny) had a really good gameplan, and we didn’t do what we needed to execute,” Schmierer said. “We didn’t look like a championship team the first two sets.”

But still, it was quite a ride for the Lightning, who should only be better next season.

“We fought so much adversity,” Schmierer said. “So many challenges that we fought along the way.”

Liberty was sidelined for three weeks in September, then came back stronger.

“The kids fought hard all year,” Dolson said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more. This team had the best chemistry of any team I’ve ever coached. They loved each other and cared for each other.”

Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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