CEDAR RAPIDS — Miracle Mustangs? No, that makes it sound like this was an accident.
Marathon Mustangs, that’s more accurate.
Once again, seventh-ranked Mount Vernon was simply five-tastic. The Mustangs won their fourth consecutive five-set postseason match, outlasting No. 13 Union Community, 25-21, 22-25, 18-25, 25-10, 15-13, in a Class 3A semifinal at the state volleyball tournament Thursday afternoon at the U.S. Cellular Center.
The Mustangs (35-10) feel this string of white-knuckle triumphs was made possible in August.
“We put so much work in ... so much conditioning, so many drills, ” Madi Cranston said. “That’s what helps us the most in a match like this.”
Not that it was much fun.
“We didn’t like the conditioning all the time,” Lauren Schrock said. “All of those sprints, they pay off. Coach (Maggie Willems) says during conditioning, ‘This is what a five-set match will be like. Now go do 10 more sprints.’”
Now, it’s go play one more match. The Mustangs meet the defending champion, No. 2 Carroll Kuemper (37-4) in the championship contest at 2:30 Friday afternoon.
Nothing has been easy in the postseason. Since the regional semifinals, Mount Vernon has outlasted Jesup, New Hampton, West Liberty and Union in succession, all in five sets.
“Union is gritty. Its defense is outstanding,” Willems said. “But we won the serve-and-pass game, and when you do that, you’re usually going to win.”
The Mustangs owned a 19-8 advantage in aces.
“Sometimes they caught us off guard with their serving,” Union’s Jasmyn Bush said. “It was simple things that we should have cleaned up.”
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After dropping the second and third sets, Mount Vernon rolled through the fourth to even the match. The Mustangs scored the first four points of Game 5, then the Knights (31-12) answered with five in a row.
It was back and forth from there, until the Mustangs scored two straight for a 13-11 edge. An errant serve erased one match point, then Schrock’s kill concluded the 1-hour, 50-minute match.
The Mustangs had a little more hitting depth — five players with seven kills or more, compared to three for the Knights. A University of Iowa commit, Schrock led the way with 20, followed by 12 from Camryn Ellison. Summer Brand had 51 assists, and Jorie Randall posted 25 digs and four aces.
“When we get to a fifth set, we trust each other, and we just keep competing for each other,” Randall said.
Bush was fantastic for the Knights for the second straight match, recording 21 kills. Weber added 16 kills and 15 digs, and Allie Driscol collected 42 assists.
Union had won its last two matches — against No. 4 Dike-New Hartford and No. 1 Davenport Assumption — in five sets.
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