WEST DES MOINES — Bettendorf’s volleyball team walked out of Dowling Catholic High School’s gymnasium Monday night with no regrets.
Sometimes, you have to tip your cap to the team on the other side of the net.
Bettendorf traveled more than 170 miles for its Class 5A regional final and hung close in each set, but seventh-ranked Dowling had too many weapons at its disposal in a 25-19, 21-25, 25-19, 25-20 triumph.
“That’s a very fine team — the best team we’ve seen this year,” Bettendorf coach Diane Lichtenberg said. “It is tough tonight because one of our goals was to bring home that regional banner.
“We met so many of our other goals. We played our hearts out.”
Dowling (34-9) advances to the state tournament in Cedar Rapids for the sixth consecutive season next Tuesday at the U.S. Cellular Center.
Thanks to 56 assists from sophomore setter Allena Shimon, the Maroons’ offense was a handful for the Bulldogs to contain.
“Allena did a great job tonight setting all the way across the net,” Dowling coach Mary Beth Wiskus said. “I just thought we executed really well.”
Senior right-side hitter Sally Gaul had a match-high 23 kills while Anna Harman chipped in 17 and middles Jacey Koethe and Allison Naughton teamed for 18.
It was too many options for Bettendorf’s defense to cover up.
“Definitely the best team we’ve been paired up against this year,” Bettendorf middle Ally Grothusen said. “They have a really good, strong front line, both blocking and swinging. They have all aspects on the court, and their defense is very relentless. They go after everything.”
Bettendorf (28-6) did plenty of good things.
It led 17-16 in the first set, but Dowling finished on a 9-2 surge. The Bulldogs regrouped, capitalized on 14 Maroon errors and used a late flurry to even the match.
The third set was the turning point.
Bettendorf bolted to a 5-2 advantage, but Dowling answered with seven straight and held at least a four-point cushion the rest of the set.
“We let up just a little bit in that third game,” Grothusen said. “Who knows if it started that chain reaction into the fourth (set). I thought we did a good job of coming back but our momentum died out.”
The fourth set was deadlocked at 14 before the Maroons reeled off three straight.
Harman had a kill, Caroline Halliwell served the only ace of the match and a Bettendorf error put them in a hole it couldn’t dig out from.
Dowling finished the match with 62 kills.
“We really needed to take care of business at the net with our block because it was a lot of court for our (back row) to cover when they have weapons like that,” Lichtenberg said.
Grothusen led Bettendorf with nine kills.
Senior Lita Solbrig had a strong match with eight kills, a team-high four blocks and was 11 of 12 behind the service line. It was a big step forward after playing junior varsity a season ago.
“She made so much improvement from last year to this year,” Lichtenberg said. “She’s a quiet leader that goes about her business every day.”
It was the second straight year Bettendorf lost in the regional final after four consecutive trips to the state tournament.
Still, after graduating its top two outsides and libero from a year ago, Bettendorf managed to win a share of the Mississippi Athletic Conference, 28 matches and a top-10 state ranking.
“I think everyone kind of thought with all the new people we had we’d be worse than we were,” Solbrig said. “We came out strong and fought each game. I’m proud of this team and what we accomplished.”
Bettendorf graduates seven seniors, six of those starters in Abbey Fromi, Emma Ostrom, Caroline Baer, Grace Erpelding, Erin Hatch and Solbrig.
“We were so close yet so far away is how it feels right now,” Grothusen said. “You think you’re almost there, but then you still have to push through, keep training and sometimes whatever you do, it might not always turn out like you want.
“We gave it everything we had.”