CEDAR RAPIDS — Western Dubuque’s magical run through the Class 4A state volleyball tournament continued Thursday.
After taking out three-time defending state champion Dubuque Wahlert in regional play and the other 2018 finalist, Cedar Rapids Xavier, in the state quarterfinals, the No. 10 Bobcats pulled another upset in the semifinals, taking down No. 8 Marion, 25-14, 25-19, 23-25, 25-22.
They advance to Friday’s 12:15 p.m. title match against top-ranked Sergeant Bluff-Luton, which advanced by downing West Delaware in the other semifinal.
Coach Megan Scherrman’s team moves to 24-13 with the win. Marion closes its season at 31-11.
Scherrman said her team may have been overlooked because of their 13 losses. Playing a Mississippi Valley Conference schedule loaded with tough teams has made the Bobcats tournament tough.
“I don’t think anybody expected us to be in this position,” she said. “These girls keep fighting. To be honest, today wasn’t our best showing, but we know they are never going to give up.
“Playing in the MVC, we are going up against 4A and 5A teams all the time. We’re tested every match and a lot of the teams have (NCAA Division I) players. Our girls are fearless, they come out and battle every point.”
It’s a big sports weekend at the Epworth high school. The football team is involved in the Class 3A playoffs, playing Lewis Central in the semifinals Thursday. Sophomore Maddie Harris, whose brother Calvin is Bobcats’ quarterback, said it hasn’t been hard to focus.
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“We just worried about our stuff,” said Harris, who finished with 10 kills in Thursday’s match. “We wanted to go to the state championship and now we are.”
The Bobcats started fast, rolling to the win in the first set and led 16-4 in the second as Marion was struggling in all phases.
“We were just out of system at the beginning,” said senior hitter Delaney Rice. “We would get one good set or one good hit, but then we would fall apart again and it was just hard to keep playing from behind.”
To their credit, the Indians kept battling. They cut Western Dubuque’s margin to two points three times. Each time, the Bobcats responded and pulled away late for the win.
Marion hung tough in the third set and got a big kill from Rice to close out the set. The momentum continued into the fourth set as Marion jumped to an early lead only to see Western Dubuque rally to close out the match.
“After losing the first two, we were in for the whole thing,” said senior Kayba Laube. “Everybody went out and did their best and tried as hard as they could, but we just couldn’t quite get it done.”
Marion Coach Roxanne Paulsen was impressed with Western Dubuque’s play.
“They moved the ball around a little more than when we watched them play earlier,” she said. “We didn’t get the result we wanted, but I’ve really enjoyed working with these girls. They have been a great group, especially our seniors.”
Meredith Bahl led a balanced Bobcats attack with 17 kills. Meg Besler and Kaylee Elgin also had 10 kills. Rice closed her Marion career with 17 kills. Laube added 12. Trinity Zika had five service aces.