Prep Volleyball

Akacia Brown's late run caps Cedar Falls' 5A state volleyball championship run

Clobbered in the first set, Tigers right the ship and conquer Valley

CEDAR RAPIDS — The finish line was in sight, and Emerson Green was aware of Akacia Brown’s appetite.

“She’s always hungry,” Green said. “She wants the ball. I could go to anybody, but Akacia has that extra hunger.”

Brown ended the match with three straight kills, and top-ranked Cedar Falls fought past No. 3 West Des Moines Valley in four sets (14-25, 26-24, 25-14, 25-22) for the Class 5A state volleyball championship Friday morning at the U.S. Cellular Center.

A Mississippi State University recruit, Brown finished with 23 kills and was selected as the all-tournament captain as Cedar Falls completed a 44-1 season (41-0 against Iowa competition) and soothed memories of last year’s championship-match loss to Ankeny Centennial.

“We didn’t just lose, we got whooped,” Brown said. “It was a bitter feeling.”

The Tigers brought that up on the hour-long ride south Friday morning.

“On the bus ride here, we said there’s no way we were losing again,” 6-foot-6 middle hitter Alayna Yates said.

Through the first set, it looked like a nightmare replay. Valley (42-5) took advantage of nine Cedar Falls hitting errors and won the opener in a hurry.

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Then Valley fought off three set points in Game 2 to tie it, 24-24. But a service error gave Cedar Falls the lead, and Brown’s kill ended the set.

Cedar Falls rolled through Game 3, then — after Valley scored four points to tie the fourth set, 22-22 — Brown gave Cedar Falls the lead with an offspeed attack, added another kill for match point, then closed it out with a rocket from the right side.

Yates added 11 kills for the winners; Emmy Wedgbury counted 10. Yates and Green (47 assists) joined Brown on the all-tournament team.

So did Jacey Spann and Hayden Kubik of Valley, Phyona Schrader of Ankeny and Kora Ruff of Pleasant Valley.

Kubik and Grace Hinkle collected 14 kills apiece for Valley,

The title was Cedar Falls’ second championship; the first was in 2017.

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

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