CEDAR RAPIDS — They watched and they learned.
Now the West Des Moines Valley volleyball team is on its way to the Class 5A state title match.
The Tigers saw how serving tough benefited Pleasant Valley in the Spartans’ quarterfinal win over Iowa City Liberty. Coach Jeremy Mikesel’s team used the same approach to take down PV in Friday’s semifinal, 25-23, 25-13, 25-16 at the U.S. Cellular Center.
No. 3 Valley (42-4) will meet No. 1 Cedar Falls, which ousted Ankeny in the other semifinal, Saturday at 10 a.m. for the state title. No. 7 Pleasant Valley’s season ends at 30-6.
“We watched and realized that Pleasant Valley was serving so tough and Iowa City Liberty got a little down,” said Valley sophomore Hayden Kubik. “We recognized that we had to serve tough too.”
The Tigers were credited with six aces, but there were numerous passing errors by the Spartans that led to easy points for the Tigers.
“We talked about how we needed to adjust on our serve a little bit,” Mikesel said. “We knew that we were going to make some errors and I was OK with that. We just went out and started ripping some serves and that ended up being the difference in the match.”
And it was a freshman who started the serving barrage. Libero Olivia Lombardi stepped behind the line early in Game 2 and served five straight Tiger points. She ended the match with two aces.
“I just went out there and served like I knew I could,” Lombardi said. “Once I got going, I just felt like we started gaining momentum and I wanted to give them the best serve I could give them.”
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The Spartans received a tough break on the match’s first point when senior Kaitlyn Morgan, a Western Illinois commit, went down with a knee injury and didn’t return.
“That really hurt their block not having her,” said Kubik, who led the Tigers with 19 kills. Olivia Curry had 32 assists for Valley.
Emily Wood led the Spartans with 11 kills
Lombardi is anxiously anticipating her first state final.
“It’s just a blessing to be on this court with all these great people,” she said. “Win or lose, it will be a great experience.”