Prep Volleyball

Despite COVID-19 absences, Gilbert sweeps to another upset in state volleyball debut

Tigers knock off No. 3 North Scott in Class 4A quarterfinals

CEDAR RAPIDS — There doesn’t seem to be much right now that can slow down the Gilbert volleyball team.

Not the No. 2 team in the state, not losing two players to COVID-19, and, on Monday without those two players, the No. 3 team in Class 4A.

After sweeping No. 2 Waverly-Shell Rock in the regional finals, the Tigers (27-9) kept it going in their state quarterfinal match, rolling past No. 3 North Scott, 25-19, 25-14, 25-21 at the Alliant Energy PowerHouse.

Next up for the Tigers is a 12:30 p.m. semifinal on Wednesday against No. 8 West Delaware.

Gilbert Coach Nessa Johnson was forced to make some quick adjustments when two players, including one of her two setters (Taylor Grinley), were diagnosed with COVID-19 after the regional final win over Waverly-Shell Rock.

“Lucky for us that we run a 6-2,” she said. “So when we lose the other setter, we have somebody who can step in. It has been a little bit of an adjustment going from a 6-2 to a 5-1 offense, but a lot of the girls play this in the offseason, so they are used to a 5-1.”

The “other setter” who had to step up was Johnson’s daughter Nessa. The 5-foot-10 senior finished with 22 assists, eight kills and 10 digs.

“We had a lot of adversity to overcome,” said Nessa Johnson. “We had to move our lineup around. Coming together and wanting this more than anything has helped us get through.”

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It also helped to have senior Thea Rotto at the top of her game. The 5-11 hitter had a match-high 16 kills, several coming from the back row. Her thoughts after the match shifted to her missing fellow senior.

“Taylor not being here was tough on everyone,” she said. “We know she would have competed to the best of her ability had she been here. We had other girls step up tonight and perform really, really well. I’m just so proud of our team.”

After going back and forth with North Scott in the first set, the Tigers pulled away late to win. The second set saw them build an 18-6 lead while, in the final set, the Tigers had a five-point run in the middle portion of the set, and were able to hold off the Lancers in the end.

Not bad for a team making its first state tournament appearance.

“All week we practiced with high intensity,” Nessa Johnson said. “We arrived here very early this morning so we could get all the chills out of the way. We were just ready to go when we stepped out on the court.”

Grace Graham led the Lancers with eight kills. Alexis Richards had 11 digs.

Coach Johnson said there is no limit to what her team can accomplish.

“These girls have really taken to this challenge,” she said. “We also have a great group of seniors who aren’t ready to let this go.”

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