CEDAR RAPIDS — The surprising ride of Wapsie Valley volleyball continues.
First, the sixth-ranked Warriors became just the third team in 22 years to deny Tripoli a berth in the state tournament. Now, they have vanquished the four-time defending champions.
“We just had to play as one,” Wapsie Valley senior outside hitter Kaci Beesecker said after No. 6 Wapsie Valley defeated No. 3 Janesville, 25-23, 25-19, 16-25, 25-14, in a Class 1A state quarterfinal match Wednesday night at the U.S. Cellular Center. “We had to come together. We knew Janesville was a good team and we just had to play with a lot of energy and mix up the sets and play good ‘D.’”
In a season in which Wapsie Valley (24-15) has had separate losing streaks of four and five matches, it never lost confidence.
“We have a very tough schedule and we know that,” Wapsie Valley Coach Heather Robinson said. “Sometimes it is hard to accept that and go out every night and you know you have a tough night. We have learned through that and every time that we took that loss, we started to pull away from each other. It is very evident, when we are together, we can do really good things.”
On Oct. 5 in Charles City, Wapsie Valley lost to Janesville 2-1. Wednesday, the Warriors smothered the Wildcats with an overpowering duo of hitters in sophomore Lydia Imbrogno and freshman Kalvyn Rosengarten. Rosengarten led Wapsie Valley with 15 kills, while Imbrogno added 13 as the Warriors edged the Wildcats in the first set, then scored the last five points of the second.
“We won because we settled in the fastest,” Rosengarten said. “We were more comfortable with each other and we just played as one. We trusted each other.”
One had to expect that a four-time defending state champion would not go away quietly, and Janesville did not. The Wildcats scored nine of the first 11 points in Set 3, then used a 6-0 burst late in the set to force a fourth.
But Set 4 was no contest. With Wapsie Valley leading, 6-5, it scored 14 of the next 16 points.
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“We knew we needed to clean up our serve-receive,” said Beesecker, who posted seven kills, 14 digs and a game-high 37 assists. “That is what killed us in the third set. Having the serve-receive on point, we were able to run middle and run our offense well.”
Beesecker was one of four Wapsie Valley players with double-digit digs as McKenna Miller totaled 15, Emma Jones added 11 and Imbrognio contributed 10.
Julia Meister recorded 19 kills for Janesville (33-12).
“They played one of their best games tonight,” Meister said. “They played really well. Things just did not go our way.”
Wapsie Valley will try to extend its magical run in a 1A state semifinal against No. 8 Fort Madison Holy Trinity Thursday night at 6.
“Closing the block, really pressing, being smart with our shots,” Rosengarten said when asked what it will take to get a semifinal win. “Having a good ball up after serve-receive and just playing as a team.”