CEDAR RAPIDS — Tripoli’s game plan: Fight or Die.
The Panthers expected to have to scratch and claw their way to a victory against gritty and tough Starmont.
Sixth-ranked Tripoli kept its state title hopes alive, rebounding after a first-set loss for a 21-25, 25-19, 25-21, 25-21, victory over No. 4 Starmont in a Class 1A state volleyball quarterfinal Wednesday night at the U.S. Cellular Center.
“The girls fought,” Tripoli Coach Courtney Anderson said. “They really played well together and as each individual. It was a really good game.”
The Panthers (24-15) advance to the semifinals in their 19th tournament appearance. They weren’t able to accomplish that a year ago.
“We just really wanted to get further than last time,” Tripoli outside hitter Brianna Lobeck said. “We just wanted to enjoy the tournament.
“It was great. I’m just speechless with our performance. It was awesome.”
The teams battled back-and-forth, but the Stars took two of the final three points to take the first set. Tripoli began to heat up in the second, taking a lead with a four-point run thanks to two consecutive Sadie Bobst aces. The Panthers pulled away with eight points in a nine-point stretch, taking a 23-15 advantage.
“That first set was definitely a wake-up call,” Tripoli’s Zoe Semelroth said. “We knew we had to go right away.
“Once we had that first set under our belts we were definitely in check.”
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Starmont jumped to a 5-2 lead in the third, but used a five-point run to take the lead it never surrendered. Semelroth closed the game with a kill and a block, putting Tripoli in the driver’s seat.
The Stars (29-7) had a hard time containing Semelroth, who led all players with 25 kills and assisted on three blocks, adding one solo.
Starmont has had trouble stopping strong hitters in two previous quarterfinal appearances.
“They had one good hitter and we could not stop her,” Starmont Coach Robert Goedken said. “We knew that coming in that she was a really good athlete.”
Tripoli led throughout the fourth set. Like most times through the match, the Panthers were able to get key points to neutralize Starmont threats.
“Stopping those runs is key and we really focus on first ball kill, putting that ball away as soon as we have the opportunity,” Anderson said. “It was one of the keys to our success tonight.”
Starmont battled back from a 19-11 deficit and pulled within three late but the rally fell short. The Stars left it all on the court.
Hayley Goedken led the Stars with 13 kills and 21 digs. Madilyn Vaske added 10 kills.
“They’ve never been a quitting team,” Robert Goedken said. “They’ve always been a battling team. They’ve always played together. It’s tough.”
The Stars tried to find a little solace in the fact that they were one of the final eight teams out of 107 teams in the class. The seniors were able to close their careers with three straight trips to state.
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“It’s so amazing,” Hayley Goedken said. “I have to give a lot of credit to all my teammates, who played their hearts out tonight. I’m so glad we got to end it at the state tournament.”
Tripoli sets up an interesting matchup in the semifinals against conference rival and top-ranked Janesville. A previous dynasty meets the current one that has won three straight 1A titles. The Wildcats beat Tripoli twice in the regular season.
“Being in the same conference, it’s really cool to see two teams in the semis together,” Anderson said. “We know they are a great team and having been matched up with them before we know we can handle them and we know that we can beat them. It’s going to take our full effort. Every single person giving 100 percent, but it’s absolutely doable and we’re going to work really, really hard to make that happen.”
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