CEDAR FALLS — Cedar Falls left the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids last year without the state volleyball championship it wanted.
The top-ranked Tigers (40-2) made sure Monday night that they’ll get another chance as they demolished Marshalltown 25-10, 25-15, 25-9 in a Class 5A regional final.
“It has definitely been a goal of ours from the first day of practice,” senior outside hitter Claire Gerdes said. “This year we are going back with the experience of being there before and we will not be as nervous as we were last year.
“We have a great team that has come a long way since then and we have different options we can take this year. We have gotten so much better through practice and we have worked on so many different things and we have come a long way. I really think we can do it this year.”
The Tigers won the first set easily (25-10) and built a seemingly comfortable 19-8 lead in the second when the Bobcats (22-13) went on a 7-2 run and closed the gap to 21-15.
Sophomore Akacia Brown delivered a momentum-swinging kill and moments later Brown and Grace Burken put up a block that put Cedar Falls at set point.
“We definitely became distracted in that second set and lost our focus,” Brown said. “This team knows how to regain our focus and get things done. The adrenaline I get from being on this team just keeps me going, and I think we are going to make a great run at state.”
The Tigers dominated once again in all aspects to finish off the third set.
“We knew Marshalltown was good and we knew we had to stay focused the whole way,” senior middle Burken said. “If this team has a weakness it might be when we lose focus and not go for everything.
“This team is set on going to state and winning it,” added Burken. “We were excited to win and know that we are going back to state for the third time in a row, and I believe we will be a force to be reckoned with. I think we have sent a message that we will not be happy unless we win it all.”
The Tigers will ride 26-match win streak to state.
“These girls are defending much better this year and they know what it is like to be that close,” Johnson said. “This is a really strong team that is playing its best ball right now. We will need to be at our best down there.”