WAVERLY — A one-year hiatus only increased Waverly-Shell Rock’s drive to get back to the state volleyball tournament.
With a ticket to Cedar Rapids within their grasp, Class 4A’s No. 3-ranked Go-Hawks used a balanced attack and aggressive serving to find an emphatic finishing touch.
Waverly-Shell Rock cruised through the opening set and pulled away midway through the next two during a sweep over Northeast Iowa Conference rival Charles City, 25-8, 25-17, 25-14, Monday night in a match that took just under one hour to complete.
“I am so excited,” said Krissa Larson, one of seven Waverly-Shell Rock seniors. “I have only gone (to state) as a sophomore so being there senior year is such a blessing.
“We had to work extra hard this year. We all were determined. We had a ton of seniors come back and we really, really wanted to win.”
Larson led Waverly-Shell Rock (42-5) with 12 kills on this night, while senior Jayme Willemssen and sophomore Jazlyn Westmoreland each finished with nine. Senior setter Claire Marsh ran the balanced attack with 31 assists.
“We have a lot of variety, as far as hitters,” said Waverly-Shell Rock coach EaVon Woodin, who became the state’s first coach to reach the 1,000-win milestone earlier this season. “I think they trust each other. It doesn’t matter who has the good game or who has the kill as long as we win as a team.”
Charles City’s No. 13-ranked team (25-15) often struggled to get in system as Waverly-Shell Rock finished with a 9-1 advantage in aces, led by four from Abbey Thier. The Comets didn’t string more than two points together until a four-point run tied set two at 10, but W-SR won eight of the next nine points to pull away. The Go-Hawks then broke free with a 9-2 run to open set three.
“Waverly had very good servers and they got us out of our system a lot of the time,” Charles City coach Maddie Fank said. “We did focus a lot on our serve receive and our blocking, but it just wasn’t to the skill that we were hoping that it would be tonight.”
Serving has been a point of emphasis for this year’s Go-Hawks.
“We’ve been focusing on serving a lot — probably more than I have in any other year,” Woodin said. “We can get teams out of system, and then if we get a free ball we have a variety of hitters that can hit from different positions.”
Junior Jodie Sindlinger led Charles City’s attack with six kills, while senior Taylor Schmidt and junior Samantha Heyer each had five.
Fank credited her six seniors for making her first year a success within a tradition-rich program that had reached state five of the previous six seasons.
“They were a great group of girls, they worked extremely hard and they played like they didn’t want their season to be done,” Fank said. “That’s all you can really ask for. They responded to whatever I had to throw at them.”
Waverly-Shell Rock will open state tournament play against No. 6 Council Bluffs Lewis Central.