116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — They are three things that don’t quite seem to mix.
Cedar Falls. Volleyball. Underdogs.
But that’s how the Tigers saw themselves as they approached the state tournament.
“We weren’t expected to be in the championship match,” Katie Remmert said. “We were kind of the underdogs.”
Now, they’re finalists.
Remmert swatted 16 kills, and the fourth-ranked Tigers swept No. 10 Johnson, 26-14, 25-18, 25-18, in a Class 5A semifinal Wednesday morning at the Alliant Energy PowerHouse.
“We knew (Johnston was) going to come out strong,” Remmert said. “They fought hard (in a first-round upset of No. 1 Iowa City Liberty), so we had to match their energy.”
» Photo gallery: Cedar Falls vs. Johnston in state volleyball tournament
The Tigers did, and the reward is an opportunity for a third state title in a five-year span. Cedar Falls (32-8) will face No. 2 Pleasant Valley (32-4) for the crown at 10 a.m. Thursday.
Pleasant Valley defeated the Tigers in a four-set quarterfinal here last year.
Johnston (28-12) rallied from a 24-21 deficit to tie the opener at 24, but Remmert closed the set with back-to-back kills, then the Tigers made it easier on themselves in the next two sets.
In Game 2, Alivia Bronner capped a five-point surge with a pair of aces to give the Tigers a 20-13 advantage.
Bronner finished the match with five aces in addition to her 20 digs.
“Our assistant coach just told me to serve my serve, and if it falls to the floor, that’s good,” Bronner said.
Cedar Falls pulled away from a 12-12 deadlock in Game 3 with a 10-2 run.
Nohea Mahi collected 33 assists for the Tigers.
Ava Helming paced Johnston with 10 kills. The Dragons had 23 attack errors, to just 12 for the Tigers.
A win Thursday would be the 600th of Cedar Falls Coach Matt Johnson’s career. He is 599-154 in 18 seasons, including 296-46 in eight years at Cedar Falls.