CEDAR RAPIDS — The semifinals are no longer Cedar Rapids Xavier’s glass ceiling.
The second-ranked Saints shrugged off an ugly first set Thursday afternoon and vanquished No. 3 Dallas Center Grimes, 16-25, 25-12, 25-23, 25-21, in a Class 4A semifinal at the state volleyball tournament at the U.S. Cellular Center.
Six-foot-5 sophomore Eve Magill walloped 23 kills, and the Saints (29-8) advanced to the championship match for the first time in school history.
“It’s been our goal forever,” libero Keera Ball said. “Now it’s right in front of us, and we want to go out and get the job done.”
Olivia Richards said, “It feels like a dream come true. It’s unbelievable, it’s finally here.”
Xavier will face No. 4 Dubuque Wahlert (25-12) — the two-time defending champion — in an all-Mississippi Valley Conference title match at 12:15 Friday afternoon.
“Who wants it more?” Xavier Coach Austin Filer said. “We’ve played so much the last couple years ... they know what we do and we know what they do.
“Wahlert finds a way to get the job done every year. But we’re not going to be scared of them.”
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
The Saints were 0-for-3 in state semifinals, including losses each of the last two years. And it didn’t look good early Thursday. Dallas Center-Grimes (36-5) scored 10 straight points for a 12-3 advantage, and coasted through the first set.
“The nerves really got to us,” Magill said. “We were looking around at the crowd. But at the end of the first set, we started playing our game and told ourselves, ‘We can do this.’”
And they did.
Xavier owned the second set behind Magill, who wore out the left sideline with repeated kills.
“Why stop what’s working every time?” she said. “After every shot, my teammates kept telling me, ‘Go line. Go line.’”
The Saints kept the pedal down. Their latest deficit in any of the final three sets was 2-1 in the fourth.
Dallas Center-Grimes cut an early six-point disadvantage to 24-23 in the third set, but Katy Garrison’s cross-court, right-side shot closed it out.
There was no such drama in the finale. The Saints jumped to a 7-3 advantage, and the margin was never closer than three points after that. Fittingly, the match ended on Magill’s 23rd kill.
“We’ve been working on ball distribution,” Filer said. “We’ve had a little more equal distribution lately, and that opened things up more for Eve.”
Emily Jasper added 11 kills for the Saints, and Richards had 10. Jazmine Yamilkoski collected 41 assists and 21 digs, and Ball posted 23 digs.
Katelyn Knudsen led DCG with 16 kills.
Xavier is the first Metro state finalist since 2008, when Marion won the 3A championship.
l Comments: (319) 368-8857; firstname.lastname@example.org