CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Xavier started fast and didn’t let up on the throttle much at all.
The Saints are now revved up and ready to return to the state volleyball tournament for the third straight year.
Second-ranked Xavier produced an 11-point run early in the match and never looked back, sweeping No. 14 Fairfield, 25-7, 25-17, and 25-14, in a Class 4A regional final Monday night at Ron Thillen Gymnasium. The Saints advance to the state quarterfinals at the U.S. Cellular Center on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
“I like the way we started,” Xavier Coach Austin Filer said. “We’ve been here before, so I think that’s always in your favor when you have that type of experience. We have a lot of kids that have been at the state level the last couple years and this is kind of an expectation for us at this point.
“Starting great is one thing but we need to finish a little bit better.”
The Saints are looking for a better finish overall. The victory earned the veteran group a chance to improve upon semifinal losses in each of the past two seasons.
“It’s one step on the way to our major goal, which is to win state,” said Xavier libero Keera Ball, who tallied 17 digs. “It’s awesome. It feels good.
“We are expecting to get back there and do more.”
Xavier (27-8) broke open the first set with the double-digit run for a 12-2 lead, including five kills from sophomore Eve Magill and two aces by Mercedes Burger.
Magill powered the Saints with a team-high 14 kills, accounting for the first points of the final two sets. Senior Akeela Jefferson added eight kills, including one of match point. Jaz Yamilkoski was able to find the hot hitter, notching 34 of the Saints’ 38 assists.
“We really worked as a team, hitting line, and we really thought that would be effective,” Magill said. “It showed tonight. We worked really hard on communication and running the plays we were supposed to.”
The Saints never trailed after the run, leading the rest of the match except for ties at 3-3 and 5-5 in the third. Xavier added an eight-point streak toward the end of the first that was closed with a Katie Garrison kill.
“We were all definitely in the zone,” Magill said. “We all felt it together and were working as a team.”
The Saints had runs of eight and six points in the second. Two stretches of five straight points helped Xavier shed the Trojans (31-6) in the final set. Filer said the Saints pride themselves on their service pressure and ability to block and attack.
“It’s so much faster and better to earn points than rely on the other team to make mistakes,” Filer said. “When that all comes together it can be a little bit demoralizing when you rattle of five, six (or) seven in a row.”
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Xavier will face Pella (31-6) at 4 p.m. The Saints aren’t looking past anyone, but they do have their sights set on a chance for the school’s first state volleyball title.
“We need to take it game by game, of course, because everyone is great at this point in the year,” Filer said. “It would be foolish for us to say our goal isn’t higher than third place. We want to get to the state championship. We believe we can win it. We want to put the first banner up in this gymnasium.”
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