NORWALK, Iowa — The Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln volleyball team figured beating top-rated Ankeny would be a tall task.
The Lynx found out just how tall Tuesday night.
Behind the powerful blocks and swings of a trio of 6-footers, Ankeny flattened unrated Abraham Lincoln 25-19, 25-19, 25-19 in an Iowa Class 5-A regional final at Norwalk High School. Ankeny returns to the state tournament for an 11th straight season.
A.L., meanwhile, came up short in its bid for a fourth consecutive trip.
“It was a great year,” Abraham Lincoln senior Lauren Meeker said. “I love my team, and I wouldn't take anything back because we had fun. We did as good as we could, I guess.”
Meeker pounded out a team-high seven kills and Lauren Colpitts converted six in their season finale. The Lynx (31-17) withstood an all-around Ankeny barrage all evening, but its latest lead in any set was 5-4 in the first.
The Hawkettes (29-6) got the bulk of their offense from their least vertically challenged players. Six-footers Megan Ballenger and Jaali Winters blasted 13 and 10 kills, respectively, while 6-1 right-side hitter Moriah Johnson added eight.
They were also big parts of seven team blocks and Ankeny's ability to get a hand on seemingly every Lynx attempt.
A.L. coach Yvonne Carson said her squad never executed its strategy of guarding against cross-court shots. And while Ankeny tightened its grip late in each set, many Lynx hitters tightened up.
“We had set up a game plan, and after the first three or four points of the game I knew,” Carson said. “They just didn't do it. Part of that is being young.”
The Lynx led 5-2 in the first set after senior Olivia Leisinger and sophomore Samantha Bohnet combined on a block. But Ankeny countered with six straight points as part of a 10-1 run. A.L. got within 21-17 before a Ballenger tip and Jenny Roberts service ace put the frame out of reach.
The Council Bluffs group trailed just 16-15 after a Delany Bolton ace in the second. But five straight Ankeny points — including three Winters aces — again proved too much to overcome.
Ankeny never trailed in the third. In a familiar story, A.L. crept to within 17-16 as Meeker, Kelsey Johnson and Colpitts notched kills before the Hawkettes rode an 8-3 run to complete the sweep.
Ankeny coach Dave Whims said his players got a feel for the Lynx at a tournament in Sioux City on Oct. 13, though the two schools didn't meet that day. The idea Tuesday was to serve tough and let the height advantage play out.
“We knew that (A.L.) matched up really good inside with us,” Whims said. “I thought ability-wise we were pretty even, too.”
The Hawkettes meet unrated Johnston (26-8) in a state quarterfinal Nov. 7 at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.
Carson said falling short is tough on a senior class that hadn't known anything but state trips. With all the work countless other girls have put into the program in recent years, reaching Cedar Rapids has become a standard for Lynx.
“I think, given a different district, we might have been able to make it back quite easily,” Carson said. “But when you play the best team in the state, you just play.”
Abraham Lincoln seniors Meeker, Leisinger and Jordyn Hyde each suited up for their final prep matches. Meeker and Leisinger led the team in kills per set and blocks per set this fall, while Hyde frequently came off the bench as a back-row player.
“To beat (Ankeny), we would have had to not make any errors,” Meeker said. “We kind of played scared at first and didn't really play our game. We got down, and you can't really do that against a team like that.”
Abraham Lincoln (31-17).........................19 19 19
Ankeny (29-6)......................................25 25 25
AL (kills-aces-blocks): Samantha Bohnet 3-0-1, Bailee Gofta 0-0-0, Krechele Brown 0-0-0, Lauren Colpitts 6-1-1, Lauren Meeker 7-0-0, Victoria Krohn 4-1-2, Hannah Hennings 0-0-0, Olivia Leisinger 5-0-3, Kelsey Johnson 4-0-1, Delaney Bolton 0-1-0.
A: Moriah Johnson 8-0-3, Jenny Roberts 0-1-0, Natalie Sieck 2-0-1, Claire Wandrey 0-1-0, Molly Wiedmier 1-0-3, Kayla Aronow 0-1-0, Jaali Winters 10-3-2, Megan Ballenger 13-0-3, Carissa Rainey 2-0-1, Katie Roberts 0-0-0.
Set assists: AL, Bohnet 22, Brown 1, Bolton 1; A, Jenny Roberts 13, Katie Roberts 17, Johnson 2, Sieck 1.