CEDAR RAPIDS — Happy to be here? Forget that.
The Western Dubuque Bobcats are talking title.
“We’re young, but we know we can beat the tough teams,” Maddie Harris said. “We know we can go all the way.”
Fearless and focused, the 10th-ranked Bobcats erased a two-set deficit and knocked off No. 2 Cedar Rapids Xavier, 23-25, 21-25, 25-18, 25-21, 15-10, in a Class 4A quarterfinal at the state volleyball tournament Tuesday afternoon at the U.S. Cellular Center.
An upset? Perhaps.
A fluke? No way.
Western Dubuque (23-13) starts three sophomores and two juniors. This is a squad that went to Dubuque Wahlert and knocked off the three-time defending 4A state champions in the regional semifinals.
Do that, and you can do about anything.
“We’re playing good ball,” Bobcats Coach Megan Scherrman said. “We had to fight to get here, and that makes a difference. We had a lot of confidence going into today.”
And that didn’t waver when the Saints (28-7) claimed the first two sets.
“It was a mentality of, ‘We can’t stop now,’” said Meredith Bahl, who posted 20 kills against three errors for a kill efficiency of .708. “We had to fight for every single point. We hadn’t been playing Bobcat volleyball.”
Xavier swept Western Dubuque in a Mississippi Valley Conference match Sept. 17. This was a new day, and the Bobcats are a completely different team.
“Anything can happen at state,” Xavier’s Katy Garrison said. “We didn’t respect our opponent. They outworked us in the end.”
Xavier Coach Austin Filer didn’t necessarily agree.
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“Western Dubuque played a fantastic match,” he said. “They took some big rips at the ball. And their defense was wearing us down in the end.”
The Bobcats will face No. 8 Marion (31-10) in a semifinal at noon Thursday. The Indians swept No. 3 North Scott.
After squaring the match at two sets apiece, Western Dubuque jumped to an 8-2 lead in the finale. Garrison had a block, two kills and an ace as the Saints got within 10-8, then the Bobcats scored four straight points on Xavier miscues to push the Saints to the brink before a kill by setter Madison Maahs ended it.
Harris added 14 kills for Western Dubuque. Maahs collected 41 assists. For Xavier, Garrison was joined by Eve Magill and Elyse Winter in double-digit kills.
After the Bobcats lost to Xavier in mid-September, they were 5-8. They have followed with 18 wins in their last 23 matches.
“I knew this was there in us,” Scherrman said. “I didn’t know it was going to be this quick. They fight. They really fight.”
Last year’s 4A runner-up, the Saints were making their fourth straight state appearance.
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