CEDAR RAPIDS -- Up two sets with an early lead in the third, the Tripoli volleyball team looked to have a clear path to the 1A volleyball state semifinals.
Unfortunately, LeMars Gehlen Catholic proved a major obstruction.
Just 15 points from advancing, Tripoli was outscored 57-26 the rest of the way in what became an 18-25, 25-27, 25-14, 25-12, 15-10 opening round loss Wednesday.
The opening set was all Panthers, who opened up an 11-1 lead behind five consecutive Zoe Semeiroth aces. The Jays made a bit of a rally, but never got closer than four.
The Panthers then looked to have all the momentum after overcoming a 20-16 deficit in the second set, clinching the win on a Brianna Loebeck kill.
But after opening up a 10-8 lead in the third set, the wheels fell off for Tripoli.
Coming off of a timeout, the Jays responded with a 17-4 run to take the third set, then controlled the fourth throughout against a Panther team that looked frazzled and off-balance.
A pair of Kennedy Drewis kills gave Tripoli an early 6-5 lead in the fifth set but the momentum would be short lived, as the Jays rode the dominate net play of Katie Peters to the class semifinals.
While disappointed with the outcome, Panther players and coaches say the final was the result of a strong opponent more than a collapse on their end.
"They brought the game and that was really the key to their success," Tripoli Coach Courtney Anderson said. "They never let up, they continued to fight throughout everything."
"They were just super scrappy (and) a really good team," added Drewis, who had a match-best 21 kills.
Semelroth added 15 kills while Sadie Bobst led all players with 40 assists.
While the departing Drewis leaves a big hole, Tripoli will lose just two starters from this season's 25-14 team
Already in good shape talent-wise, Anderson says a state trip, even with its unsatisfying result, will be of great benefit to her young players in the coming years.
"(We'll be) extremely strong," she said of next year's team. "We have a lot of returners. And now that they've had experience down here, I think next year that will be an advantage for us."