There have been only three five-set matches in the storied history of the Ankeny vs. Ankeny Centennial volleyball rivalry.
Tuesday’s showdown at Centennial may have been the best of those three matches.
After dropping the first two sets, the second-ranked Jaguars rallied for an 18-25, 22-25, 25-23, 25-18, 15-11 victory over No. 5 Ankeny to take an 8-7 lead in the all-time series.
“It feels amazing just to do that for our seniors in our last home game in this (CIML) Conference,” said Centennial junior Delaney Miller. “We just kept fighting. I’m so proud of everyone.”
The win allowed Centennial to keep its conference title hopes alive. The Jaguars are now 5-1 in the league and 22-5 overall, while Ankeny’s records dropped to 3-3 and 19-12.
“I thought (Ankeny) came out playing really well, and I thought we came out playing a little slow,” said Centennial coach Jessica Rinehart. “Saturday was really intense for us (at the Urbandale Invitational), so I don’t know if it just took us a while to get going or what. We had to find another gear and midway through we found that gear.”
The Jaguars had defeated Ankeny, 25-23, 25-17, at the Centennial Invitational on Aug. 26. But Tuesday’s match went the distance–thanks to a strong start by the Hawkettes and a huge comeback by Centennial.
“Regardless (of the result), I think that was a win for us because we just really needed to come out and play like I knew we always had the potential to,” said Ankeny coach Liz Baethke. “Obviously, I would have liked a different outcome–especially after jumping out to a 2-0 lead–but we just needed to know that we can play at that level against a really good team. I think it was good for our confidence.”
Ankeny never trailed in the first two sets. The Hawkettes jumped out to an early 8-2 lead, then later scored the last five points to close out the opening set.
In Set 2, Ankeny built a 9-3 advantage before Centennial later got back-to-back aces from Jaeden Pratt to pull within 16-13. However, the Hawkettes held on for the win and a 2-0 lead.
“I think our energy was really good tonight,” said Ankeny junior Reagan Hanfelt. “We just played kind of as a team tonight, instead of six individuals. And that was great to see.”
Ankeny appeared to be on the verge of a sweep when the Hawkettes used a 4-0 run to break a 5-5 tie in Set 3. Senior standouts Tanith Roush and Aowyn Schrader, who are both out of the lineup due to injuries, cheered for their teammates from the bench.
“They’re a great team, and I think they just really picked it up with all the injuries that they have,” Miller said of the Hawkettes. “They’ve done amazing with what they’ve got. I think in those first two games we were making a lot of nervous errors, and we just had to settle in a little bit.”
Centennial eventually rallied and turned the third set into a seesaw affair. There were 12 ties and eight lead changes before the Jaguars scored three straight points to take a 22-20 lead.
Shortly thereafter, Anna Sash pounded a kill to close out the set.
“We had the setters get the ball to our outsides more than they were the first couple of games,” Rinehart said. “I really saw Jaeden step up and kind of determine where we were going to go from a leadership standpoint. I think that was the big turning point for us.”
In Set 4, the Hawkettes took a 9-6 lead before Centennial answered with a 6-0 run. The Jaguars later reeled off seven straight points to extend their margin to 22-14.
Ankeny closed the gap to 24-18 before Miller slammed a kill to even the match at two sets apiece.
“She was so determined,” Rinehart said. “She looked at me and said, ‘I’m going to put this ball away.’ And I was like, ‘I know you are.’ I’m so proud of how hard they had to dig to go get that (win).”
Centennial never trailed in Set 5. The Jaguars scored the first four points and later took an 8-3 lead.
After Ankeny pulled within 13-11 on a kill by Kam Scheib, Sash responded with a block for Centennial. The Jaguars then won the next point to close out the match.
“This is so big,” said Centennial setter Kambria Leazer, who dished out 41 assists. “I was a little scared in the first two sets, but I was like, ‘We’re going to stick our heads out and get through it.'”
Miller racked up 22 kills in the win, while Pratt added 16 and also had three aces. She completed 23-of-24 serves.
Sash and Gabby Mixdorf each recorded five blocks. Mya Lei-Butters had 27 digs.
Centennial outhit Ankeny by a .116 to .113 margin. Baethke said the Hawkettes made too many errors down the stretch to pull off the upset.
“We wanted to limit our unforced mistakes, and unfortunately we let that number get over the amount that I thought we could give up and still compete and win,” she said. “We just kind of shot ourselves in the foot there, especially at the end. We had the momentum and the energy, and we were executing. But when it came right down to it, we kind of ran out of gas.”
Hanfelt led Ankeny with 13 kills and eight blocks. Scheib also had 13 kills and completed all 18 of her serves.
Ava Wille and Olivia Eike each had nine kills, and Wille also recorded five blocks. Lauren Dockendorff finished with 21 assists, and Cloey Wiederin added 20.
Ilana Coleman racked up 24 digs. Baileigh Carlsen had 19 digs and a pair of aces.
Hanfelt credited the Jaguars for not giving up.
“They’re Centennial–they’re a great team and they have a great coach,” she said. “They definitely know how to win. And we’re a young team. I think we definitely have that, too. This is a great match for us just to turn everything around after our loss to Waukee Northwest (last week). It was amazing.”
The Jaguars shared some hugs on the court after the match. It marked the first time since 2017 that the Jag-Hawk battle went the full five sets.
“I think we just really had to dig deep,” Miller said. “That was a pretty big crowd, and we just had to settle into that. I think at the end of the day we just fought for each other and pushed through to get that ‘W’.”
Both teams will be back in action with conference matches on Thursday. Ankeny will host Urbandale (8-16), while the Jaguars will travel to Southeast Polk (12-16).
“I feel like we’re getting back to 100 percent with the kids that we have, so that helps tremendously,” Baethke said.