CEDAR RAPIDS — Kara Peter said there was “no doubt.”
In deference to Carroll Kuemper’s standout hitter, there was plenty of doubt as the Knights’ Class 3A state semifinal match against Hawkeye 10 Conference rival Red Oak hung in the balance.
The defending 3A champions, after winning the first two sets, were facing an 8-5 deficit in Game 5.
“We’re the defending champions,” Peter said. “It all came down to trust in ourselves and we weren’t going to lose it.”
It also helped to have Peter. The 6-foot-3 hitter had three straight kills down the stretch as the No. 2 Knights (37-4) closed strong to oust the third-ranked Tigers, 25-19, 25-13, 23-25, 23-25, 15-10 at the US Cellular Center.
Kuemper advances to play No. 7 Mount Vernon, a winner in five sets over Union, in Friday’s 2:30 p.m. title match. Red Oak finishes at 34-7.
Peter, who finished with 31 kills, said the fact Thursday’s win came over a conference rival made it more satisfying.
“I think it made us want it more,” she said of playing against the Tigers. “We beat them once this season, but this was different today. This was a different atmosphere.”
Once the Knights got the lead to 10-8 in the fifth game, Kuemper Coach Keith Stickrod felt good.
“I think our confidence really showed after that point,” he said. “We knew this was going to be a tough match. They are in our conference and we know each other so well. It’s just crazy.”
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Peter credited Red Oak’s block for helping the Tigers square the match after the Knights looked dominant in the first two sets.
“They stuffed a couple back at me,” she said. “I’m not used to that happening.”
Anna Niehaus added 23 kills for Kuemper while Mallory Badding had 24 digs. Sophie Walker and Chloe Johnson led Red Oak with 11 kills each.
Stickrod said it is a great accomplishment for the Knights to be back in the 3A final.
“I said before the season that 3A was wide-open and today just proves that,” he said. “We’re just hanging on against a great team and we were able to move on. We’re one of the lucky ones who gets to play for the title.”