CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s anybody’s race now.
A fifth-set sprint staring it in the face, unranked Council Bluffs St. Albert assembled a seven-point scoring streak, erased five set points and shocked No. 1 Janesville, 25-20, 25-18, 18-25, 26-24, in a Class 1A quarterfinal at the state volleyball tournament Tuesday night at the Alliant Energy PowerHouse.
“We didn’t have any pressure at all,” Saintes Coach Angie Lantz said. “We were under the radar, the No. 8 seed. Who expects an 8 seed to beat a 1?”
Very few. Did the Saintes?
“I knew we were going to battle,” she said, and that was all.
During the regular season, St. Albert (15-13) was the small fish in a big pond called the Hawkeye Ten Conference, a league filled with 4A and 3A programs. The Saintes played only one 1A opponent in the regular season, losing to Logan-Magnolia.
That schedule is paying off now.
“Our conference really prepares us,” said St. Albert’s Allie Petry, a 5-foot-6 hitter with a high vertical and a wicked swing. “We were expecting a Hawk Ten team out there.”
Janesville (28-5) appeared flat through the first two sets before asserting itself. The Wildcats scored the final six points of Game 3 to pull away, then held an 18-13 lead in the fourth set when setter Gabby Gergen went down with a minor leg injury.
The Wildcats still led 21-15 when Gergen returned, and they were on the brink of forcing a deciding set at 24-19. They had five shots at it.
Instead, Lauren Williams put down three kills and Petry added two as the Saintes stormed back.
“We knew we could do it,” Williams said. “We just had to put our minds to it.”
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Two days before the tournament began, No. 2 Wapsie Valley was forced out of the event because of COVID-19. Wapsie and Janesville were projected as heavy favorites to meet in the title match.
Now, they’re both out, and the case can be made for any of the final four to take it all the way.
St. Albert faces No. 4 Gladbrook-Reinbeck (33-2) — a straight-set winner over No. 7 Springville — in a semifinal at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
“I think we’ve got a shot,” Williams said. “If we step up the whole time like we did tonight, we can do it.”
Petry swatted 25 kills, and Williams added 17. Pyper McCarville paced Janesville with 15 kills.
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