Assumption takes step forward at state with five-set win
Iowa state volleyball

Assumption takes step forward at state with five-set win

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Davenport Assumption's volleyball program has been built piece by piece.

The foundation was laid two seasons ago with a share of the Mississippi Athletic Conference title. A layer was added last year with the school's first state tournament berth.

Another landmark came Tuesday afternoon at the U.S. Cellular Center — the Knights' first win at the state tournament.

After squandering a two-set advantage, the seventh-ranked team in Class 4A generated a 10-point flurry in the fifth set to stave off third-ranked West Delaware 25-16, 25-17, 19-25, 23-25, 15-8 in a riveting quarterfinal match.

"It is really special," senior libero Lexi Flynn said. "The state appearance wasn't enough last year. We want to keep breaking boundaries and doing more."

Assumption (32-6) gets that opportunity against second-ranked Solon (33-2) in a semifinal at noon Thursday. The Spartans ousted Indianola in four sets.

"This was our goal from Day 1," second-year coach Kyle Condon said. "This is a special team, and I knew we would be able to do it."

The Knights needed every ounce of determination and toughness to fend off the Hawks (37-6).

Danielle Cabel hammered 28 kills, Flynn compiled 44 digs and Claire Bird registered seven aces as the Knights had to regain their composure after dropping sets three and four.

"After the first two games, we almost got a little cocky," Bird admitted. "We'd beat a really strong team in two games, and we thought this shouldn't be that difficult. After we realized we can't shut down, we got loose again and we play our best when we're loose."

Bird and Cabel were at the center of the surge in the fifth set.

Behind her jump serve, Bird reeled off nine straight points — including three aces.

"It is a really good weapon," Bird said. "The more confidence you get behind the line, the harder it becomes (for the opponent). If we can get a run, there isn't a lot that can stop us."

West Delaware used both of its timeouts during the match-changing run to stem the tide. It didn't work.

"We just got into one rotation where we couldn't side out," Hawks coach Brett Mather said.

Bird started jump serving halfway through last season, but she struggled with her timing and consistency at the beginning of the season.

"I worked on it a lot throughout the season, and it just came along," she said.

Cabel was a force in the front row. She had four kills and a block in the final set.

"My teammates were putting me in good spots," she said. "We had some girls play really well, so that opened me up a little more and I could swing away."

Assumption dropped a tight best-of-three match to West Delaware at the Monticello tournament in late September.

The Knights came out energized thanks to six unanswered points midway through the opening set and a 7-1 surge in the second. Mary Rolf had 10 kills and five blocks as the Knights owned a 17-4 advantage in blocks.

"We knew their setter was going to the middle a lot, so we got our hands up there," Bird said. "We watched the film and knew what to expect."

Still, West Delaware didn't wilt. Paige Soppe had 15 kills and Bridget Hoffman contributed 14 to lead the comeback.

"We got overconfident," Cabel said.

The Knights counter-punched to get the final say.

"We're just resilient," Condon remarked. "We needed people to step up and make plays. That was intense."

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