MAPLETON, Iowa — Council Bluffs Lewis Central made Sioux City Heelan squirm a little.
They were just a few points from making the Crusaders squirm a lot.
But in the end, form held and second-rated Heelan will be spending the early part of November in its home away from home, Cedar Rapids.
The Crusaders rallied late in the fourth set to finish off a 20-25, 25-16, 25-15, 25-22 Class 4-A regional final volleyball victory over the 11th-rated Titans at Maple Valley-Anthon-Oto High School.
Missouri River Conference champion Heelan (35-10) extended its remarkable run of consecutive state appearances to 15. Lewis Central, the Hawkeye Ten Conference tri-champion and seeking its second state appearance, closed at 21-14.
“Our girls played well,” Lewis Central coach Dennis South said. “They don't have anything to put their heads down for. They took Heelan to four games and surprised them in that first game.”
However Heelan, also rated first in western Iowa (Class 5-A/4-A/3-A) by The World-Herald, regrouped and advanced to a 4-A state quarterfinal on Wednesday, Nov. 7, at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena against No. 8 West Delaware (31-11).
Heelan coach Mary Miller said “The Streak” looms over her players' heads. It has to.
“Just think of us: Most of these kids are 15 and 16,” she said. “Their entire life, they don't know (anything other). There's a fine line between confidence and being arrogant. That's our job as coaches to kind of keep that in check. Because you don't want to be the one where The Streak dies, because that's all you're going to be known for.”
WI No. 3 Lewis Central beat the Crusaders to the punch in the first set, led by senior Kayla Jones (five kills) and sophomore Reghan Coyle (four). Abby Bergsten's kill and Morgan Means' ace were followed by a Heelan error, giving the Titans a 20-15 lead in the opener. They closed it out on consecutive kills by junior Megan Driver.
Miller got after her team a bit before the second set, and the Crusaders easily evened the match behind seniors Lauren Brobst (five kills) and Megan McCarthy (four). In the third set, Heelan raced to a 9-4 lead and wasn't seriously threatened.
Miller said the opening-set loss turned out to be a good thing.
“It kind of fired us up and made us realize that maybe we were looking past these guys, and we really had to work for it,” she said.
The Titans' big chance came in the fourth. Down 10-7, Jones had a pair of kills in an 8-0 run to put L.C. up 15-10.
After a Crusader timeout, Taylor Koolstra served seven straight. McCarthy had three kills in that stretch.
“It's happened to us before, and we just have to refocus and keep our composure,” said McCarthy when asked how her team responds to lulls in its play.
At 17-all, Lewis Central missed a serve, starting a 6-0 Heelan run that made it 23-17. Brobst and Laura Twiford closed it out moments later with a double block.
McCarthy said it's still more than just relief to reach the state tournament.
“It's the 15th one, and it's amazing and fun every single time, because every season is different,” she said. “But there's always pressure.”
CB Lewis Central (21-14)..........................25 16 15 22
Sioux City Heelan (35-10).........................20 25 25 25
LC (kill-aces-blocks): Abby Bergsten 11-0-0, Reghan Coyle 6-0-2, Hannah Dmyterko 0-0-0, Megan Driver 4-0-1, Kaci Hohenthaner 0-0-0, Amber Huttmann 3-0-0, Kayla Jones 13-2-1, Morgan Malskeit 0-0-0, Morgan Means 0-1-0, Aubrey Norville 7-0-1, McKenzie Pettepier 0-0-0.
SCH: Rachel Vondrak 2-0-0, Bridget Blair 1-1-0, Jenna Bork 0-1-0, Lauren Brobst 11-0-2, Taylor Ferguson 1-2-0, Grace Hanno 6-0-1, Taylor Koolstra 8-1-1, Megan McCarthy 16-2-1, Katelynn Poss 0-0-0, Laura Twiford 4-0-2, Kelsey Watterson 0-0-0.
Set assists: LC, Huttmann 34, Coyle 3, Malskeit 1, Means 1. SCH, Blair 18, Ferguson 18, Twiford 1.