MARION — Anything but Game 5. Anything.
“Of course, yes,” said Linn-Mar’s Tori Niemeyer. “We wanted to get it done there.”
Which the fifth-ranked Lions were finally able to do Monday night in Game 4 of their Class 5A regional volleyball final against No. 8 Pleasant Valley. Niemeyer’s well-placed return appeared to hit right on the sideline to give her team a 25-23 victory and 3-1 overall win.
Three of the games in this entertaining match finished 25-23, with Pleasant Valley rallying to take Game 3. The exception was the 25-19 opener.
It’s on to the state tournament at the U.S. Cellular Center for a third straight season for Linn-Mar (31-9). There was no other alternative for a club with eight seniors.
“I never would have thought this would happen,” said Linn-Mar’s Ellie Von Lehmden. “There are always nerves coming in, but I feel like we had good nerves. We came out and were ready to play. We had some ups and downs, but we pushed through, came through and came out with a win.”
It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure.
“Pleasant Valley has just gotten better and better as the season has progressed,” said Linn-Mar Coach Teresa Bair. “I knew it would be tough. For our kids, I knew there was a lot on the line, as far as we’ve got a lot of seniors, and you’re going to get kind of shaky now and then. We just talked about perservering through the tough times, pushing through and taking advantage of specific rotations.”
Pleasant Valley (27-7) will be more than a handful considering most of its top players were underclassmen. Linn-Mar had a tough time coping with the power of juniors Erica Brohm and Kaitlyn Morgan, sophomore Emily Wood and freshman Kora Ruff.
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Linn-Mar’s attack also was varied, with Von Lehmden and Anna Gorsich leading the way with 11 kills apiece, followed closely by Megan Renner (8) and Niemeyer and Emily Strauss (7 each). A Gorsich kill won the second game, with a pair of Von Lehmden kills being part of a telltale 5-0 run late in Game 4.
“We got some key hits at some key times,” Bair said.
“We just wanted to get the ball in,” Von Lehmden said. “We changed to a 5-1-2 (formation), so Megan was actually setting the whole time and wasn’t (part) of the offense. We put Allison (Feigenbaum) in the front row. I feel like that helped us start something new because we were struggling a little bit there. It was helpful to get something out of there.”
Cedar Rapids Jefferson is the first-round opponent Tuesday afternoon at state. A lot of familiarity there.
“We did not understimate Pleasant Valley at all,” Niemeyer said. “We knew they were going to be a great team coming in. We knew we had to put up just as better as a fight against them because it was going to be a tough one. And it was, for sure.”
“They’re such a likeable group,” Bair said of her team. “They just strive for each other, they work really hard, and they don’t want to let each other down.”
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