116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
WEST LIBERTY — Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Springville found a way.
Trailing two sets to none, Class 1A’s top-rated Orioles (39-5) rallied to defeat No. 12 New London, 27-29, 23-25, 25-20, 25-21, 16-14, Wednesday night at West Liberty.
Up 15-14 in the final set, senior Nia Howard spotted a hole in the Tigers’ (30-12) defense and placed the ball there for the game-winning kill.
“It’s a feeling I can’t even explain,” Howard said. “I knew what needed to be done, and I knew my team was there to support me. Getting that point and hearing the crowd, it’s surreal honestly.”
“I think the first emotion was, thank God it’s done,” said Springville Coach Claude Howard. “And thank God my kid got that ball, she’s a gamer. Every one of these kids on the court earned it tonight.
“I’m pretty proud as a dad in that moment, but I’m more proud of the team and how they fight.”
For the Orioles, this year marks their fourth consecutive trip to the state tournament and the program’s eighth in the last 10, all under Coach Howard.
Wednesday’s match brought everything in Howard’s Springville coaching career full circle.
“2013 was my first year and New London was ranked No. 3, and we were No. 11,” he said. “It was a five-set match. We were down 0-2, came back and won to go to state for my first year as a head coach. It was at Iowa City West. I couldn’t write this thing any better.”
After dropping the first two sets, Springville bounced back taking an 8-4 lead in the third set before New London called a timeout. The Orioles didn’t relinquish the lead and took the third set by five.
“I told them after we went down 0-2, it’s a three-set match now,” said Claude. “It’s 0-2, we can’t do anything about it. So we have to win right now. They came out and did that.
“The next message was, we have to win set two. We’re in this thing, then we have one more to go.”
Springville controlled the majority of the fourth set as well, leading by as many as seven before taking it 25-21.
“We said that we wanted more,” Nia Howard said. “Because I believe in our hearts we did.”
The fifth set went back and forth, featuring eight ties, the last one coming at 14-all. The Orioles took the final two points and Howard sealed it with a kill in the back right corner for the win.
“I knew we could do it,” Nia said. “I wasn’t going to end the season not going. I’m super happy with my team, I love them so much.”
Howard ended the contest with 53 assists and 10 kills.
“Our team is built for these kinds of things and we never give up,” Claude Howard said.
With the win, this year’s Springville class becomes the first in school history to earn a trip to the state tournament in four consecutive years.
“I told them, they win this game, they’re the best class to ever come from Springville,” Claude said. “They proved it, I think, tonight.”
Kennady Breitfelder led Springville in kills with 23. Lily Clark tallied 13, while Molly Stamp and Rowan Jacobi recorded nine apiece.
New London was led by Eliana Manning, who had 55 assists. The top hitters were Sophie Malott with 24 kills, Natalie Burden with 20 and Tysann Gipple added 11.
“Kudos to New London,” Claude said. “They played really, really hard.”
“They did absolutely amazing,” Nia said. “But we were just saying, we needed to fight for it. We knew we had it in us.”
Springville’s quarterfinal match against Oakland Riverside will take place at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Xtream Arena in Coralville.
Springville 3, New London 2
27-29, 23-25, 25-20, 25-21, 16-14
Serving: Springville 110-114 (.965), New London 102-108 (.944)
Aces: Springville 7, New London 10
Kills: Springville 72 (Breitfelder 24, Clark 13, Howard 10, Stamp 9, Jacobi 9, March 7), New London 62 (Malott 24, Burden 20, Gipple 11, Lair 6, Manning 1)
Assists: Springville 61 (Howard 52, Zaruba 8, March 1), New London 61 (Manning 58, Nye 3)
Blocks: Springville 11 (Clark 6, Jacobi 3, Stamp 1, Breitfelder 1), New London 7 (Burden 3, Lair 2, Gipple 2)