CEDAR RAPIDS — Before the state volleyball tournament, Cedar Falls seniors Akacia Brown and Alayna Yates discussed the oddity that neither had played a five-set match in their entire time with the Tigers.
They got one at the state tournament.
“It has always just been three (sets),” Yates said after No. 1 Cedar Falls eliminated No. 8 Waukee, 25-22, 25-10, 21-25, 24-26, 15-12, in a Class 5A state quarterfinal match Tuesday at the U.S. Cellular Center. “Even going four, I was like, ‘Wow, this is a new experience.’ Going five, ‘Oh wow, this is a new experience.’ It was awesome to get that taken care of in the first round instead of being in the finals again and being down or something like that and having a lot of pressure.”
Cedar Falls (42-1) appeared on its way to one of its signature sweeps as Brown peppered the floor with an array of early kills. The Mississippi State recruit posted eight kills in the first set and eight more in the second, a set in which the Tigers had bursts of 11-0 and 21-4.
“It helps that we have so many different weapons,” Brown said. “Everyone on our team is super-skilled and talented and everyone brings a different piece to the puzzle. It helps knowing that at any time, we can use one of those different options.”
Brown finished the match with a 5A tournament record 37 kills, but Waukee (35-12) became just the third Iowa school to win a set from the Tigers this season. By scoring the final four points of Set 2 and a 5-0 closing burst in the third set, the Warriors got two and set up the aforementioned winner-take-all fifth set.
“They served well and I think they hit the spots that they wanted to hit,” sixth-year Cedar Falls Coach Matt Johnson said. “We kind of fell apart in our serve-receive a couple of times and got a little one-dimensional, but especially defense and blocking, that is a great team.”
In the decisive fifth set, Cedar Falls had leads of 9-1, 11-3 and 14-7, but Waukee charged back as it did in the previous two. The Warriors scored five points in a row to pull within 14-12, but Yates’ 23rd kill was an emphatic winner.
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“Getting that game-winning kill was finally just a big sense of relief,” said Yates, a Dayton signee. “All right, let’s get it done.”
Senior Kirsten Graves led Cedar Falls with 22 digs, while Brown added 21. Northern Iowa basketball recruit Emerson Green posted a match-high 56 assists.
Junior Layanna Green led Waukee with 15 kills.
Cedar Falls will play a 5A state semifinal for the fifth year in a row. The Tigers will face the winner of No. 5 Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln and fourth-ranked Ankeny Thursday at 10 a.m.
“It will be tough,” Johnson said. “As good a team as we saw today in Waukee, we are going to see another one that is equally good or better on Thursday.”