Perhaps the most anticipated matchup in the Class 5A quarterfinals of the state volleyball tournament will feature two of the state’s hottest teams.
Fourth-ranked Ankeny (36-5) will face No. 5 Council Bluffs Lincoln (38-3) on Tuesday at 2 p.m. at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids. The Hawkettes have won 16 straight matches, while the Lynx are riding a 21-match winning streak.
Both teams swept their way to the state tournament. Ankeny rolled to 3-0 victories over No. 13 Urbandale and No. 12 Cedar Rapids Kennedy during regional play, while Lincoln swept No. 15 Sioux City East and No. 9 Ankeny Centennial.
“Obviously, they are a good team that deserves their ranking,” Ankeny coach Dave Whims said of the Lynx. “They beat Centennial, so that qualifies them as good. They’ve had a great year with only three losses. They dominated southwest Iowa.”
Elaina Bohnet leads Lincoln with 360 kills, but the Lynx have multiple weapons. While Bohnet struggled in the win over Centennial–she had four hitting errors to go along with six kills–four of her teammates had eight or more kills, led by Kayla Schleifman with 10.
Sam Christiansen racked up 37 assists for the Lynx. She now has 928 assists on the season.
“They are athletic, quick and smart,” Whims said. “They like to play small ball with a lot of tips, throw the ball around the court to see where you are out of position and put it there. Then they come back swinging hard on fast sets to the hitters. We will have to be ready to defend and read all of that.”
Ankeny, meanwhile, will counter with one of the state’s most balanced attacks. Six different players have recorded more than 100 kills this season.
Malea Daugherty leads the way with 196 kills, followed by Isabelle Vacek with 195 and Phyona Schrader with 177. Schrader, a Notre Dame recruit, is one of the state’s best all-around players–the junior setter has also racked up 456 assists, 65 blocks and 53 aces.
“We need to serve tough, get them out of system and swing hard and smart,” Whims said. “They dig everything so we need to be consistent all day long–time and time again knowing the ball is going to come back at us. The play is not over until the ball hits the floor and the whistle blows. That has to be our mentality–relentless pursuit of the ball. If we can carry that mentality over from practice into the game, we should be good and ready to compete with them.”
The winner of Tuesday’s match will play No. 1 Cedar Falls (41-1) or No. 8 Waukee (35-11) in Thursday’s semifinals at 10 a.m. The Tigers are 87-2 over the last two seasons–their only loss to an Iowa opponent during that stretch came to Centennial in last year’s Class 5A championship match.
Cedar Falls defeated Ankeny, 25-23, 25-12, at the Centennial Invitational on Aug. 31.
“We need to take one game and one match at a time, and that is how I am preparing,” Whims said. “Hopefully, by preparing for (Lincoln) it will help prepare us for Cedar Falls. However, Cedar Falls presents more problems. They seem to be a notch above everyone. They are strong at every position and can stop you from doing what you have done all year in every match. They place a tremendous amount of pressure on you with strong serving, and they have good passing and an impressive offense.”
No. 2 Iowa City Liberty (34-2) will face No. 7 Pleasant Valley (29-5) and No. 3 Valley (40-4) meets No. 6 Dowling Catholic (32-11) in the other quarterfinal matches. Valley swept Ankeny in last year’s quarterfinals.
“The bottom bracket has four teams that all can knock each other out of the tournament,” Whims said. “Who will beat whom is still to be determined. It will take strong skills and consistent skill work plus stamina to endure the test of a best-of-five match. I can see both of those first-round matches going five sets. Each team is very skilled and has very good players. It will be fun to watch and see who comes out of that lower bracket.”
The championship match is slated for Friday at 10 a.m.