CEDAR RAPIDS — Toss, power, spin and placement, it’s all come together for Taylor Lynch from the service line.
With supreme trust in a weapon she’s worked so hard to develop, the Cedar Falls senior has become Class 5A’s leader with an average of 0.86 aces per set.
Needing a spark with her team clinging to a 13-12 edge during the first set of Tuesday’s Class 5A state tournament opener, Lynch’s dynamic jump serve helped get the top-ranked Tigers off and running.
Lynch served four aces during a 12-1 run that closed out set one, while setter Tayah Mahi opened the second frame with 10 consecutive points on her float serve as Cedar Falls swept Urbandale, 25-13, 25-13, 25-15, reaching the semifinal round for a third consecutive season.
“I’ve just put a lot of work and effort into it and a lot of time outside of practice with my club coach,” Lynch said of her game-changing serving ability. “I’m definitely a lot more confident from last year and I think it’s helped my arsenal this year.”
Lynch’s teammates are also confident in her ability to get opponents out of system.
“I love when Taylor goes back to serve because no one can handle it really,” Mahi added. “It’s just nice to know our defense won’t be as stressed.”
A Cedar Falls team (41-2) that hasn’t dropped a set in its last 19 matches will return to the U.S. Cellular Center to face Linn-Mar at 10 a.m. Thursday.
The Tigers’ veterans were all clicking throughout Tuesday’s opener.
Mahi, who finished with a near triple-double of nine kills, 33 assists and 11 digs in the shortened match, ran a balanced and potent attack that imposed its will on Urbandale. Seniors Claire Gerdes and Cynthia Wolf finished with 10 kills apiece, while Lynch added nine kills and 10 digs as Cedar Falls out-hit Urbandale .362 to .107.
Urbandale (24-14) took an early 8-4 lead in set one, but Mahi rallied the Tigers with three of her kills during a 6-0 go-ahead run before Lynch’s serving slammed the door shut.
“You don’t see that from Urbandale often because they’re so good at siding out the ball,” Cedar Falls coach Matt Johnson said of his team’s lengthy service runs. “We talked a lot about how this is not the kind of team that you can blow out very well, but we got more runs than I thought we would.”
After coasting through set two, the Tigers showcased scrappy defensive play to pull away in set three. Clinging to a 15-12 lead, Kirsten Graves and Lynch each dove to keep the ball alive and Mahi ended the point during a 5-1 run that provided separation to complete the sweep.
“We got stagnant at the start of game three and then we came out of the timeout and played one of the best defensive points of the match,” Johnson said. “Kirsten had a great serve and then got a big dig. Those things are contagious.
“She gets one unbelievable up, and the next thing you know four or five other girls are laying out for balls. It’s probably worth more than one when you win a point like that, there’s momentum that carries over.”
A cohesive team loaded with size, skill and athleticism, Cedar Falls will continue to lean on its experience during this state tournament run.
“The nerves are still there a little bit and we kind of got a little nervous at the beginning, but we’ve been here before,” Lynch said. “We know what we’re doing and I think it took over and we did what we are supposed to do.”