Prep Volleyball

Third time's a charm: Wilton sweeps Van Meter to clear state volleyball quarterfinal hurdle

Second-ranked Beavers roll to semifinals in third straight state appearance

CEDAR RAPIDS — Wilton prefers the extended stay to an early exit.

After two years of first-round losses at the state volleyball tournament, the Beavers finally get to hang around for at least one more match.

Second-ranked Wilton made quick work of No. 11 Van Meter, earning a 25-12, 25-21, 25-13 sweep in the Class 2A quarterfinals Tuesday at Alliant Energy PowerHouse.

“I like being in this position,” Wilton junior Kelsey Drake said with a laugh. “The past two years we go home for the first night, so I’m happy we get to come right back.”

The Beavers returned all but one player from last season. They have been fueled by experience and motivation to improve the previous finishes.

“They have been very focused with this mind-set all year,” Wilton Coach Brenda Grunder said. “It’s really been on their minds. I appreciate that. They set a lot of goals. They set some high goals. We’ve been talking about this a lot.”

Wilton (33-3) wasted little time, jumping on state tournament newcomer Van Meter for an 8-1 lead. The Beavers followed with a 9-3 run to gain control and reached set point with a four-point run that included a Drake kill.

Van Meter challenged in the second set, exchanging leads and owning a 16-14 advantage. Wilton took over with a five-point rally and never looked back. Alexa Garvin’s kill capped the second.

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Wilton overwhelmed Van Meter at the beginning of the third. Kills by Drake and junior Carly Puffer highlighted a 4-0 start. Puffer’s ace helped a six-point stretch that made it 12-3 as the Beavers cruised to the victory.

“I’m really excited,” Puffer said. “I’m glad we could finish that game strong. We focus on our ball control and our mental game. I think that really showed in this match.”

Drake had a game-high 15 kills. Puffer added eight and had four aces with three solo blocks. Ella Caffery paced Wilton with 28 assists. The Beavers have their sights set on a state title.

“All year, we’ve been saying take care of our side,” Drake said. “It doesn’t matter who is on the other side of the net. If we have our serve and receive and we’re in our pass, set and hit.

“Keep it one game at a time. If we keep playing our game we’re going to be just fine.”

Van Meter closed the season at 19-4. The Bulldogs made their first state tournament trip. Zoie Vaught and Abby Matt tallied seven kills apiece and Emma Braun had 19 assists and an ace to lead Van Meter.

“it’s definitely an accomplishment,” Matt said. “It feels good to be a part of something that hasn’t happened before in Van Meter history. It sucks that we made it this far and we can’t go any further. I’m proud of myself and my team.”

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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