CEDAR RAPIDS — Passing and serving has been the backbone to the Pleasant Valley volleyball team's success all season.
It vanished at an inopportune time.
A rash of service miscues, 16 to be exact, hindered the fifth-ranked Spartans in a 25-27, 21-25, 25-23, 25-27 defeat Tuesday to Urbandale in a Class 5A state quarterfinal match at the U.S. Cellular Center.
"I think it was more nerves than anything, but this is a very different atmosphere to serve in and the court seems a lot deeper than it actually is," said PV senior setter Allie Carter, who totaled 45 assists. "It was surprising."
Urbandale (35-5) reversed the outcome of last year's opening-round match to earn its first state tournament victory and a semifinal date Thursday with West Des Moines Dowling, which pulled off a five-set stunner over top-seeded Ankeny.
Kyla Inderski had a match-high 30 kills and contributed 18 digs for the J-Hawks.
"Being a senior, you know you kind of have to step up and be a leader," Inderski said. "That's always been something I've kind of shied away from. This year, I've learned how to keep everybody else up."
PV (28-7) squandered two set points in the opener.
"We came out a little flat," PV defensive specialist Kayla Ruff said. "We weren't expecting Urbandale to come out that strong."
Urbandale broke free late in set two to seize a 2-0 cushion and constructed a 20-15 advantage in the third.
The Spartans didn't cave.
"I'm really proud of our team for not giving up," PV senior libero Morgan Waterman said. "We kept fighting after every point."
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Sydney Strawser, who had a team-high 22 kills, ignited the comeback to help force a fourth set.
"Game 3, the girls showed their character and battled," PV coach Stacey Ruff said.
PV looked poised to force a deciding fifth set with 14-10 and 18-16 leads, but untimely service errors, sloppy passing and a dominant Inderski caught up with the Spartans.
"First game, I thought the service errors were just a matter of jitters, but it was something that stuck with us and will probably haunt us," Coach Ruff said. "We just didn't play at the level that we're capable of playing."
Even so, the Spartans continued to scrap and claw with an undersized team that was out of system for much of the match.
It had five players with at least 13 digs in Kayla Ruff, Waterman, Emma Whigham, Allie Carter and Strawser.
"It stings right now, but when we look back on it, we showed some people up that didn't expect us to be that good," Kayla Ruff said.
Whigham finished with 15 kills, while sophomores Kelli DeGeorge and Emily Paul chipped in eight and seven kills, respectively.
A year after reaching the semifinals, PV says goodbye to seven seniors, including its top attacker in Strawser, Carter (setter) and two significant pieces of its back row (Waterman and Kayla Ruff).
"I can't say enough great things about those seniors," Coach Ruff said. "They've made a huge stamp on our program and what it is about.
"We weren't the biggest team this year, but we definitely found a way to win a lot of games despite that."