Prep Volleyball

Cedar Rapids Xavier qualifies for its 5th straight state volleyball tournament

No. 1 Saints sweep Oskaloosa: 'We have the pieces to do big things'

CEDAR RAPIDS — As far as state-tournament appearances go, the Xavier Saints are worthy of a high-five.

Getting there is an accomplishment, for sure.

Winning it, that’s the intention.

“Of course it is,” Katy Garrison said. “We’ve got to keep working, pick up the defensive effort. We have the hitters. If we pick up the defense, we’ll be unstoppable.”

Top-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier overcame some hiccups — and a set point in Game 2 — and swept No. 15 Oskaloosa, 25-16, 26-24, 25-19, in a Class 4A volleyball regional final Tuesday night at Ron Thillen Gymnasium.

“A win is a win,” setter Jazmine Yamilkoski said. “We definitely need to improve some areas. I think this team plays better when we’re up against the wall, but we need some more urgency. That’s got to change.”

Xavier (23-6) advances to the state tournament for the fifth straight year. The Saints open with unranked Dallas Center-Grimes (17-4) in a quarterfinal at 3 p.m. Monday at the Alliant Energy PowerHouse. DCG upset No. 7 Marion on Tuesday.

Yamilkoski, Garrison and Eve Magill will be making their fourth appearance downtown. They were semifinalists in 2017, runners-up in 2018 and quarterfinalists last year.

“We definitely know how to get there,” said Magill, who suffered a sprained ankle late in the match and is expected to be OK for state. “It’s a huge accomplishment.

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“We have the pieces to do big things. It’s a mental game. We need to focus in, and if we do, we can go all the way.”

A heavy underdog, Oskaloosa (21-8) made the Saints earn it behind Faith DeRonde, who collected a match-high 18 kills. But as Yamilkoski said, the Saints were at their best when they were cornered.

Xavier trailed 21-19 and 24-23 in the second set. After two Osky errors, Garrison ended the set with a kill, her sixth of the set.

Osky led 6-0 and 11-4 in Game 3, then Taylor Marlin served back-to-back aces in a seven-point surge that got the Saints even at 11-11.

Xavier pulled steadily away shortly thereafter.

Maya Karl led the Saints with 11 kills, Garrison added nine and Elyse Winter tallied seven. Yamilkoski posted 29 assists.

Yes, a championship is the ultimate goal for this crew. Garrison allowed herself a moment to reflect on the accomplishment of four career trips downtown.

“It’s crazy to think,” she said. “Being on the varsity as a freshman really helped me grow as a player and become a leader. It’s something not many people get to experience, and I don’t take it for granted.”

CEDAR RAPIDS XAVIER 3, OSKALOOSA 0 (25-16, 26-24, 25-19)

Class 4A Regional Final, at C.R. Xavier

Serving: Oskaloosa 57-61 (.934), Xavier 69-74 (.932)

Aces: Oskaloosa 4 (Maleah Walker 2), Xavier 6 (Katy Garrison, Taylor Marlin 2)

Kills: Oskaloosa 32 (Faith DeRonde 18), Xavier 37 (Maya Karl 11)

Assists: Oskaloosa 30 (Presley Blommers 19), Xavier 34 (Jazmine Yamilkoski 29)

Blocks: Oskaloosa 3 (Abygail Thompson 2), Xavier 6 (Eve Magill 3)

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

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