CEDAR RAPIDS — West Delaware finished fourth in the East Division of the Wamac Conference this season.
Now the Hawks are one victory away from being the best Class 4A team in the state.
Coach Brett Mather’s team came out fast, and never let up, rolling to a 25-19, 25-13, 25-16 win over No. 10 Gilbert on Wednesday in a 4A state semifinal at the Alliant Energy PowerHouse.
The No. 8 Hawks (29-11), state semifinalists last year, won a state title in 2015 and have been a state runner-up five times. They face a tough task in Thursday’s title match in Cedar Rapids Xavier. The top-ranked Saints swept Western Dubuque on Wednesday.
“There are a lot of great teams in our conference,” said West Delaware junior setter Carlee Smith. “A lot of those teams are also down here at the state tournament and playing against them gets us ready.”
West Delaware’s style is one not many teams are accustomed to seeing. Gilbert appeared to be a step slow the entire match, never really matching the Hawks’ quick-attack style.
“We just went out there and played our hardest,” said senior Ava Hauser, who paced the Hawks attack with 16 kills. “Yesterday in practice we just worked so hard. We were ready from the start.”
Gilbert came into Wednesday’s match on a roll, downing No. 2 Waverly-Shell Rock in the regional finals and No. 3 North Scott in Monday’s quarterfinals. It also was playing its second state match without one of its two starting setters. Senior Taylor Grinley was out due to COVID-19.
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“I think our tempo and pace did get to them a little bit,” Hauser said. “Everybody knows how we play and we really never let up, no matter who we are playing against.”
Smith also kept the pressure on with her serve. She finished with three aces. When she wasn’t getting aces, her serves forced Gilbert to scramble and not get into good attacking sets.
“Serving is pretty important and the nerves can get to you a little bit to start, but once you get going, it’s fine,” Smith said.
Smith also had 36 assists. Ella Koloc had 13 digs.
Thea Rotto led Gilbert with 10 kills.
Smith said the Hawks are looking forward to meeting Xavier.
“The championship game for us is going to be no different than any other game,” Smith said. “We’re going to go in with the same mentality and I know we’re going to lay it all out there.”