CEDAR RAPIDS — Yeah, they had it covered.
Cedar Rapids Jefferson snagged its first state-tournament berth in 20 years, brushing aside Johnston in straight sets (25-16, 25-19, 25-16) in a Class 5A volleyball regional final Monday night at Jefferson High School.
“I’m glad we came together this year to make this happen,” said an emotional Maddie Slagle, the J-Hawks’ captain and the lone senior in the rotation.
“I’ve been wanting this for four years.”
And her teammates wanted it for her.
“We could feel the tension a little bit before the match. It was pretty quiet,” libero Kaylee Donner said. “Then we got talking ... ‘Let’s do it for Slagle.’ She’s the one that keeps us accountable. She’s the older model figure.”
No. 4 Jefferson (39-6) will face No. 5 Linn-Mar (30-10) in a state quarterfinal at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7 at the U.S. Cellular Center.
It will be their fifth meeting this season. Jefferson won three of the first four.
Like the rest of the Cedar Rapids Community School District, Jefferson didn’t have school Monday. That had Coach Amy Norton on edge.
“My first thought when I saw that was that we would be out of our routine,” Norton said. “Before I saw anything, they told me, ‘Coach, we’ve got it covered.’”
The J-Hawks got together at Haylee Knudsen’s house for breakfast. They went to the gym for practice, serving and serve-receiving.
Then they returned Monday night and took care of business.
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Johnston (15-21) scored the first three points of the match. It turned out to be the Dragons’ longest scoring surge of the match, and Jefferson controlled action throughout, notching a 41-18 advantage in kills.
“We moved the ball around, we moved our block around and we created holes in their defense,” Lindsey Culver said.
Culver collected 12 kills, Sydney Kloubec added 11 and Slagle posted nine. Maddy Baxter generated 35 assists.
The opener was tied at 13-all before the J-Hawks scored five in a row — including back-to-back kills by Kloubec — and won going away.
Jefferson never trailed in the second set. A three-point run put the J-Hawks in control, 18-12. In the finale, they scored four straight to take the lead for good at 10-7.
At 20-16, they scored the final five to close it out. Kloubec’s kill was the winner, and jubilation followed.
The players, students, coaches and fans milled around the gymnasium for the better part of an hour afterward to take pictures, celebrate and soak it in. After 20 years, who could blame them?
“It’s going to be amazing at school tomorrow,” Donner said. “We’ll celebrate for a while, then we’ve got to get back in the gym and get going again. We’ve got some tough competition coming up.”
CEDAR RAPIDS JEFFERSON 3, JOHNSTON 0 (25-16, 25-19, 25-16)
Class 5A Regional Final, at C.R. Jefferson
Serving — Johnston 46-53 (.868), Jefferson 65-73 (.890)
Aces — Johnston 4 (Jennah Johnson 2), Jefferson 8 (Raya George 3)
Kills — Johnston 18 (Regan Nesheim 6), Jefferson 41 (Lindsey Culver 12)
Assists — Johnston 18 (Taylor Ricke 11), Jefferson 38 (Maddy Baxter 35)
Blocks — Johnston 6 (Jaden Studer 3), Jefferson 4 (four with 1)
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