COUNCIL BLUFFS — Council Bluffs Lewis Central’s auxiliary gym had never seen such elite volleyball.
In a battle of two top-rated teams, the cozy setting was the only reminder that Dike-New Hartford and Harlan weren’t playing a state title match.
Exhilarating rallies and dramatic finishes became the norm in the last contest of the new and fully loaded Lewis Central tournament Saturday. The Iowa Class 4-A No. 1 Cyclones took a rare set from the two-time defending 2-A state champs before succumbing 12-25, 25-20, 15-11.
Harlan (30-4) has never won a state match. But it proved that this year’s group can compete with the best Iowa has to offer. It led 8-7 in the third set before Dike-New Hartford took over with the next five points.
“It was a really fun match to play in,” Harlan junior Jess Schaben said. “They are a great team, and we gave it our best. We can’t hang our heads.”
The 6-foot-2 junior and Iowa State recruit swatted 21 kills as her team came within a set of winning the formidable six-school tournament — which also included 5-A No. 1 Ankeny — and dealing the Wolverines (39-1) their first loss to an Iowa opponent in more than two years.
The website prepvolleyball.com ranks Dike-New Hartford No. 4 nationally and tabs Harlan at No. 86. Ankeny checks in at No. 34.
Coach Angie Spangenberg’s squad seemed primed for the upset early on. It ran off seven straight in the first set to jump out to a 21-8 lead. Along with Schaben, Elle Kloewer and Taylor Frederick slammed multiple kills, while back-row passers like libero Asia Kloewer and setter Mackenzie Swanson made play after play.
“It says we can play with anyone, really,” Schaben said. “It shows we can play with everyone. It’s a really good confidence booster for us.”
But with the Hawkeye Ten Conference champs ahead 23-11, the building’s fire alarm went off, forcing a 16-minute delay while players and spectators alike evacuated outside. Harlan participants circled up and stayed loose, thanks largely to dance-offs, singing and cheers.
“We thought it was somebody from Dike (who pulled the alarm),” Spangenberg said with a laugh.
Two more Schaben kills finished off the first-set win when action resumed and marked only the third set Dike-New Hartford has dropped to an in-state foe this fall.
But three future Division I players helped the Wolverines recover. Northern Iowa recruit Briana Weber earned six of her nine kills in the second set and fellow junior and UNI commit Rachel Koop added two from her setter position. Wisconsin pledge and 6-5 junior middle Brooke Morgan contributed a pair of kills and a block.
Tied at 15, Dike-New Hartford took six of the next seven points to even the match.
With a standing-room only crowd building for the final set, Harlan forged an 8-7 advantage on a Taylor Wagner kill. But two errors and kills from three players put the northeast Iowa visitors ahead 12-8. Up 13-11 moments later, Morgan converted a kill and Koop blocked a Harlan attempt for the clincher.
“It was thrilling,” Asia Kloewer said. “Then that fire alarm, gosh dang it. It was just so fun to go out there and compete. It was so awesome.”
Both schools defeated the other four tournament entrants before their de facto title match. The list consisted of 5-A No. 1 Ankeny (34-4), 2-A No. 10 Maple Valley-Anthon-Oto (26-11), 4-A No. 12 Lewis Central (16-15) and unrated IKM-Manning (15-15).
Harlan’s other highlight win was a 25-12, 25-16 decision over Ankeny, which had beaten the Cyclones twice this season.
Lewis Central participated in Saturday’s only other three-set match, falling to Harlan 25-13, 23-25, 15-8. Reghan Coyle and Abby Bergsten each notched eight kills in a possible preview of next month’s 4-A regional final.
Harlan (30-4) ............................ 25 20 11
Dike-New Hartford (39-1) ............................ 12 25 15
H (kills-aces-blocks): Asia Kloewer 0-0-0, Jordyn Moser 0-0-0, Tara Knudson 1-0-0, Mackenzie Swanson 0-0-0, Jess Schaben 21-0-0, Elle Kloewer 5-1-0, Jessica DuVal 0-1-0, Taylor Wagner 3-0-1, Taylor Frederick 5-0-0.
DNH: Kristi Koch 0-0-0, Samantha Meyer 0-0-0, Briana Weber 9-0-1, Brooke Morgan 4-0-1, Rachel Koop 2-0-0, Elizabeth Blough 7-0-0, Abby Klug 0-0-0, Sadie Eden 2-0-2, Ashley Dumler 3-0-2, Taylor Hedges 0-0-0.
Set assists: H 31 (Swanson 29, Wagner 1, Knudson 1), DNH 24 (Koop 21, Weber 2, Hedges 1).