CEDAR RAPIDS — For two hours, Aliyah Carter and Madison Larson took turns teeing off from above the net.
Unfittingly, the final point of the match came with Carter at the service line and Larson on the bench.
Carter’s ace enabled fourth-ranked Dubuque Wahlert to outlast No. 5 Independence in a five-set Class 4A quarterfinal thriller (25-17, 27-29, 25-17, 16-25, 17-15) at the state volleyball tournament Tuesday night at the U.S. Cellular Center.
“You’ve got to give them credit,” Independence Coach Joe Schmitz said. “I thought we had them on the ropes, but they found a way to get it back. It was a lot of kids playing for their high-school lives, and they left everything on the floor.”
The two-time defending 4A state champion, Wahlert (24-12) advances to face No. 1 Sergeant Bluff-Luton (35-6) in a semifinal at noon Thursday. The Warriors stopped No. 8 West Delaware in four sets.
Independence’s star and a Winona State University recruit, Larson tied a 4A tournament record with 34 kills. Carter countered with 31 for the Golden Eagles.
“She’s a great, great player,” Carter said of Larson. “She hits shots I wish I could hit.”
Larson returned the compliment.
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“(Carter) is an incredible athlete,” she said. “She can jump out of the gym.”
Independence (35-7) scored five straight points and took a 13-12 lead in the finale on Mackenzie Hupke’s ace. Carter posted the next two points on kills for a 14-13 Wahlert advantage.
Then it went Larson kill, Carter kill, Larson kill to make it 15-15. Larson went to the back row to serve, then Carter slammed another kill for a 16-15 Wahlert advantage.
Larson went to the bench for the next rotation, and Carter closed it out with an ace.
“It’s tough not being out there for that last point,” Larson said. “It was a great match. I’ve never played in one quite like it, with that intensity, so much on the line.”
Larson took 73 swings and posted a .370 kill efficiency. Carter swung 78 times and hit .282.
Carter had a little more help, mostly in the form of Carolyn Conlon, who added 18 kills.
Holly Cooksley served six aces, distributed 47 assists and added 15 digs for the Mustangs.
Cooksley and Larson are part of a seven-player Indee senior class. Five of them started.
“This was definitely a match I’ll never forget,” Cooksley said. “It just stinks we couldn’t pull it off.”
Before the finale, the second set was the only close one. The Mustangs erased three set points, then prevailed at the end on a kill and an ace by Larson.
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