The Ankeny Centennial volleyball team was hoping to erase the memory of last year’s four-set loss to Ankeny in the Class 5A quarterfinals.
Instead, the Jaguars suffered a similar fate.
Second-ranked Pleasant Valley scored 33 of the last 48 points and posted a 25-16, 19-25, 25-20, 25-12 victory over No. 7 Centennial in a Class 5A quarterfinal on Monday at the Alliant Energy PowerHouse in Cedar Rapids. The Jaguars finished the season with a 30-10 record.
“That’s exactly what happened to us in the first round last year,” said Centennial senior Marissa Meyer, who led the Jaguars with 14 kills. “It’s a bummer.”
Pleasant Valley (31-4) advanced to the semifinals for the third straight year. The Spartans outhit Centennial by a .309 to .167 margin.
“Ankeny Centennial has a great team and a great program,” said Pleasant Valley coach Amber Hall. “They’re always well prepared every year, and their coach does a great job. I just felt like in that third and fourth set we settled in and played the game that I know we can play. To be on a big stage like this affects teenage girls. It’s kind of nice to just settle down and believe in yourselves and the team.”
After the two teams split the first two sets, the third set was a back-and-forth battle that featured three lead changes and 12 ties. The score was tied at 17-17 before the Spartans reeled off four straight points–all of them on Centennial errors–to take the lead for good.
Pleasant Valley eventually closed out the set on a service error by the Jaguars.
“We tried a different lineup to see if we could generate some more points, and I don’t know if that threw things off a little bit,” said Centennial coach Jessica Rinehart. “We just started making more errors, and I don’t know if we were thinking about the outcome versus just settling in and doing our job. I know these girls wanted it really bad. I think when they felt it slip a little bit they might have panicked. We just didn’t execute at the level we hoped to and thought we could.”
In the fourth set, the Spartans went on a 12-3 run to build a 13-5 advantage. Centennial was unable to mount a rally.
“I really thought we could do it,” Meyer said. “We came back (and won) the second game. We just really needed to push more, but then we didn’t.”
Pleasant Valley closed out the match on a kill by Halle Vice from the left side, her 10th of the match. Chloe Cline led the Spartans with 14 kills, Emily Goodpaster had 11, and Arra Cottrell added nine more.
“Knowing that any hitter I set I have a lot of trust in and a lot of faith that they can put the ball down, it’s really nice because it doesn’t put a lot of pressure on me at all,” said Pleasant Valley setter Kora Ruff, who finished with 42 assists.
Ruff, Vice and Riley Morgan each had three aces for the Spartans, who also got 20 digs from Livia Thomsen and a pair of blocks from Cline. Pleasant Valley hit .435 in the fourth set.
“They ran a quick (offense), and our middles had a really hard time defending them,” Rinehart said. “Their setter has a really quick release, and we didn’t see anyone like that (this season). Our plan was to serve really tough so that they couldn’t just set wherever they wanted, but we didn’t serve that tough and we felt like we were constantly being attacked.”
Monica Mirembe and Peyton Mitchell each had seven kills for Centennial. Mirembe also had two blocks.
Morgan DenBeste dished out 28 assists and also had two aces. Ella Becker and Delainey Winkel each contributed nine digs.
Pleasant Valley never trailed in the first set. The Jaguars then led all the way in the second set to even the match.
Meyer had eight of her kills in the second set. Winkel had four of her five in that set.
“I wasn’t thinking so much about me,” Meyer said. “I was doing it for the team, and I wanted to bring energy so they could be confident in themselves, too.”
Centennial hit .389 in the second set, but then struggled the rest of the way.
“Marissa was awesome,” Rinehart said. “(But) when it comes to state, it takes everybody to win a game. I thought the whole time if we just settled in and played our game that we could win the match. And unfortunately, we just didn’t have our best across the board today.
“I’m sad for the seniors because they’ve been an awesome group. I just wanted them to keep playing, and I thought they deserved it. It is kind of a heartbreaking loss,” she added.
Ruff said the Spartans’ confidence grew as the match progressed.
“We kind of got the nerves out in those first two sets,” she said. “We just played with a lot more energy. It’s really loud in here and it’s kind of hard to play, but once we got used to it and played our own game it was a lot better.”
Pleasant Valley will now get a semifinal rematch against No. 3 Ankeny (40-5) on Wednesday at 10 a.m. The Hawkettes won a five-set marathon in last year’s semifinals.
“We’re really going to have to prepare and be ready to play at a high level,” Hall said.
Eight of the 10 Spartans who played in Monday’s match also saw action in last year’s loss to Ankeny.
“We have a lot of returners so a lot of our girls experienced that (loss),” Ruff said. “I think we’re really ready to redeem ourselves and show how hard we’ve worked this season to get here.”