116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The Xavier Saints constructed a championship-caliber dogpile after a semifinal victory.
And considering the circumstances, why not?
'We've been looking forward to that match for a long time,' said Eve Magill, part of the Saints' front-line wall.
Top-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier made the key plays at key times at the end of the first two sets, and swept No. 5 Western Dubuque in a Class 4A state volleyball semifinal, 25-22, 25-23, 25-16, Wednesday afternoon at the Alliant Energy PowerHouse.
'This felt like a championship match,' Xavier's Katy Garrison said. 'I'm so excited, especially after last year.'
Ah, yes, last year. A season that ended earlier than the Saints expected, in a quarterfinal loss to Western Dubuque.
'We've said all year, that match is part of our story,' Magill said. 'Now, it's all motivation.'
That 'story' that Magill referred to? It has reached its final chapter.
Xavier (25-6) will play for the 4A championship at 12:30 Thursday afternoon against No. 8 West Delaware (29-11). A win would mean the first volleyball title in Xavier history and the first for a Metro program since Marion won the 3A crown in 2008.
The Saints have found a new level of energy since coming downtown.
'There's a lot of motivation that came from last year's loss (to Western Dubuque),' setter Jazmine Yamilkoski said. 'It doesn't feel good to lose.'
There was none of that for Xavier this time. The Saints rallied from a 21-18 deficit in the first set.
Magill, who stands 6-foot-5 and will play for Creighton University next year, put up a block to put the Saints in front, 22-21. After the Bobcats (25-11) got even at 22, Xavier's Maya Karl swatted back-to-back kills and Yamilkoski added a block to end the set.
Western Dubuque held a 22-21 edge in the second set, then the block party reconvened. Magill and Anika Ivester teamed for one to tie the set, then Elyse Winter added another to put Xavier in front, 24-22.
Winter smashed a kill to give the Saints a two-set advantage, just like they had against the Bobcats last year.
There was no comeback this time. Instead, the Saints gradually pulled away. After the Bobcats' final attack sailed long, the Saints piled upon each other.
Xavier finished with a 12-1 blocking advantage.
'We knew it was going to be tough,' Bobcats Coach Megan Scherrman said. 'And I think we panicked with it. They weren't letting us put the ball down, that's for sure.'
Xavier's kill advantage was 40-35, but the Bobcats made 26 attack errors, compared to 15 for the Saints.
'They were the better team today,' Western Dubuque setter Madison Maahs said. 'We struggled in taking care of our side. That happens sometimes.'
Winter led all attackers with 11 kills and matched Brooklyn Miller for team honors with 10 digs. Magill added 10 kills and Karl posted nine. Yamilkoski distributed 35 assists.
Meg Besler paced Western Dubuque with nine kills. She's one of just two senior starters for the Bobcats, who probably will be the 4A frontrunner in 2021.
As for the Saints, their story reaches its climax Thursday.
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