116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Wouldn’t it figure?
The area’s two most important volleyball matches of the regular season, featuring the area’s four best teams, are the same night.
Cedar Rapids Xavier at Iowa City Liberty, a battle of top-ranked teams (4A and 5A), for the MVC Mississippi Division championship.
Marion at Mount Vernon, for the Wamac Conference East Division title.
Two matches, one night. And one tough decision Tuesday.
But you can’t top 1-vs.-1, right? So Xavier-Liberty, it was.
They honored nine seniors at Liberty, including four-year starters Cassidy Hartman and Shelby Kimm.
“We owe a lot to this group,” Lightning Coach Allie Kelly said. “It’s crazy to think this is their last year. Cassidy and Shelby ... they’ve been major contributors since the day they walked in the door. The others have waited for their turn to come.”
Kimm said, “I remember when we came here as freshmen, I thought, ‘Wow, this is high school volleyball now. How is this going to go?’”
⧉ Related article: Photos: Cedar Rapids Xavier vs. Iowa City Liberty volleyball
It has gone extraordinarily well. With Kimm and Hartman as common denominators, Liberty’s program ascended quickly, reaching three state tournaments, highlighted (so far) by a runner-up finish in 2020.
First serve was at 7:01 p.m. Tuesday, in front of a modest-sized student section — “about a fifth of what it ordinarily would have been,” Liberty AD Mike Morrison said, pointing out that the Iowa City Community School District is on fall break.
Xavier had beaten Liberty for the championship of the Waverly-Shell Rock Invitational on Saturday, but this was a new day, and a different Liberty performance.
The Lightning erased a set point in Game 1 and won it 26-24 on a pair of kills by Kimm and another by Lauren Ramspott. They came back from a 15-10 deficit in the middle set, storming back with an 11-2 surge that shifted the match for good.
Liberty (25-8, 6-0) clinched a sweep (26-24, 25-21, 25-19), running away from a 10-10 deadlock in Game 3, and allowing all of the seniors to get in.
Jasmine Barney’s kill got the Lightning to match point, then Sydney Stratton’s kill closed it out.
“Xavier is a really good team, so I didn’t know if we’d be able to get everybody in,” Hartman said. “I’m glad we could, and (the reserves) played really well.”
While the Bolts were humming, word came from Mount Vernon that the Wamac East showdown was late getting started.
Hmmm. Check a map app. Only a 27-minute drive from North Liberty to Mount Vernon ... no print deadline ...
Take the back roads through the Sugar Bottom area, meet up with Highway 1 in Solon and head north.
Upon entrance in the Mount Vernon gym, the Mustangs had taken a 2-0 set lead — after rallying from a 23-21 deficit in Game 2 — and were up 9-7 in the third.
“We’re really great at playing a point at a time under pressure; that’s a huge advantage for us,” Mustangs Coach Maggie Willems said. “The kids take care of each other. They believe they can win, even when they’re down.
“You don’t want to let Marion play in system.”
It’s not fall break at Mount Vernon. The student section was full — in camouflage attire — and the pep band loud.
It was electric, and the Mustangs closed it out, 25-19, 25-23, 25-20.
However, it’s just one night in early October. Xavier will get another shot at Liberty next Tuesday in the championship bracket of the MVC tournament. Same with Marion and Mount Vernon next Thursday at the Wamac tournament.