The first two sets of Tuesday’s Class 3A Region 7 semifinal between Davenport Assumption and West Liberty were about as close as they could be.
Both sets were nip-and-tuck battles, with both squads taking a set while neither rattled off more than four points in a row.
But in the third set, with the score tied 8-8, the host Knights finally got some separation from the pesky Comets. Sophomore Kylie Welch served three aces and junior Anna Vonderhaar added three kills as Assumption scored eight straight points to take control of the set and, ultimately, the match. The Knights won by scores of 26-24, 22-25, 25-15 and 25-23.
“We were all just getting really hyped as a team,” Welch said. “We got excited, and it was just point after point. After we got that lead, we wanted to stay excited and stay on top.”
Assumption (25-8) advances to face ninth-ranked Beckman in a regional final in Anamosa on Monday. The Comets' season ends at 22-14.
Welch had four aces in the third set, and Lindsay Stratman, who led the Knights with 15 kills in the match, began to figure out the West Liberty defense. She had four kills in the set, mostly tipping around and over the lanky Comet front line.
“I kept getting blocked the whole night because they were really good defensively,” Stratman said. “They knew where I was hitting, so I needed to change it up and throw in some tips.”
The fourth set was another close battle, and West Liberty led 22-20 after a Brianna Morales block and the Knights were whistled for being in the net. But after an Assumption timeout, the Comets missed a serve before Stratman hammered down back-to-back kills. Assumption setter Lea Nelson caught the Comets off guard with a quick tip to finish off the 25-23 win.
“She got a little frustrated throughout the night,” Assumption head coach Bre Scherler said of Stratman. “She was reaching a little bit higher on her swings and she was avoiding the block a whole lot better than she was the first few sets. Lindsay is that player who can snap out of it in a second and she really does step up for our team and make those key kills.”