Prep Volleyball

Le Mars Gehlen outlasts New London in 5-set state volleyball thriller

Jays advance to Class 1A semifinals

CEDAR RAPIDS — It contained all the stomach-churning thrills and dizzying turns of a roller coaster.

When things finally came to a stop, Le Mars Gehlen could exhale with some relief and hands raised in excitement.

The third-ranked Jays outlasted all the nerve-racking swells and drops and feisty No. 11 New London for a 25-19, 13-25, 25-18, 25-14, 15-12 victory in the Class 1A state volleyball tournament Tuesday night at Alliant Energy PowerHouse. Gehlen will make its third semifinal appearance in the last four seasons, facing Burlington Notre Dame (17-5) Wednesday at 8 p.m.

“I only enjoyed it because we won that fifth one,” Meyer said. “It was just ridiculous how up and down both teams were. The first, third and fifth game it was like we were a different team and the same for them.”

Gehlen suffered a first-round defeat a year ago. The Jays survived this seesaw affair, winning their first five-set match of the season.

“It’s really fun,” senior Rachel Langel said. “You play for five games and to come out on top definitely is one of the most rewarding things.”

The teams alternated sets with the match and advancement balancing on the final set. Like the rest, the teams managed the ebb and flow of momentum.

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Gehlen jumped to a 5-3 lead, getting consecutive kills from Langel and Cadence Goebel and an ace from Abby Ruhland.

Rylee Schnepf’s 10th kill of the match made it 9-5 and Miyah Whitehead’s back-to-back kills gave Gehlen an 11-8 edge.

“It gave us momentum,” Gehlen’s Larissa Sitzmann said. “We needed people to step up and push our team to get final.”

The Tigers clawed back, converting on miscues that aided them in the second and fourth sets. They added kills from Marah Hartrick and Natalie Burden to tie it at 11 apiece.

The Jays closed with a 4-1 run, including two kills from Sitzmann and Lauren Heying, whose winner down the line ended it.

“Right down the stretch, I hadn’t thought we’d gotten the ball to Lauren Heying on the right side very well at all,” Meyer said. “Then, she came through with some big plays.”

Meyer said the Jays have been balanced all season. Sometimes it’s a curse and sometimes it works well. This time it turned out fine. Langel led the way with 15 kills. Sitzmann, Schnepf and Whitehead each had 10. Goebel fed them, notching 47 assists.

“Our passers did a great job of getting the ball up to our setter,” Langel said. “It gave us a lot of options and our setter laid it up there perfectly. They deserve all the credit.”

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Hartrick paced New London with 11 kills, while Sofie Reighard had 10. The Tigers close the season at 22-8.

“We didn’t want our season to end,” Reighard said. “We wanted to give everything we possibly could so our season wouldn’t end tonight. It did but we still played and gave every single ounce of effort.”

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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