CEDAR FALLS — Hudson’s volleyball team got the test it was searching for, while Cedar Falls stepped up to the challenge Saturday at Waterloo West’s Beninga Wahawk Volleyball Classic.
A switch flipped on within Class 5A’s top-ranked Tigers, as Cedar Falls secured a title out of an eight-team field that included five schools ranked within their respective classes.
Class 2A’s No. 9 Hudson opened the Tigers’ eyes with few miscues during a clean second-set victory in pool play. Cedar Falls then slammed the door shut in the third set of the match to win, 21-14, 17-21, 15-3.
In a championship rematch with Hudson, Cedar Falls pulled away from a 7-5 edge in set one and a 12-11 advantage in set two to prevail, 25-10, 25-13.
“I think you could see the difference from the first time we played Hudson to the second,” Cedar Falls coach Matthew Johnson said. “What a difference energy and just being engaged makes.
“It was nice to see us figure it out and understand that you respect your opponent — that’s a really good team there. You focus on doing things right and it’s worth 10 or 12 points a set.”
Hudson now sits 19-4 this season with all four losses to ranked opponents in larger classes. The Pirates defeated Decorah and Don Bosco in pool play Saturday before sweeping conference rival Wapsie Valley, 25-17, 25-13 to reach the championship match.
“We got to find out who we were,” Hudson coach Steve Baird said. “We take a lot of positives from today. We came here and made every goal we had set coming into this weekend.”
Johnson was pleased with the manner in which his team eventually answered the bell.
“Credit to Hudson, they came out and just kind of knocked us in the face a little bit when we thought things were going to be easy and we could go through the motions,” Johnsons aid. “We weren’t very good with our first touch (passing) the first time we played them so we focused on making sure we had our middles as an option.”
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Senior outside hitter Akacia Brown powered Cedar Falls through the 5-0 tournament run with 49 kills on .511 hitting and seven aces. Middle Alayna Yates added 31 kills at a .472 clip with 15 blocks and three aces.
Cedar Falls setter Emerson Green dished out 102 assists to go with six aces, and libero Kirsten Graves tallied a team-high 45 digs.
In addition to that core group of seniors, freshman Katie Remmert added 11 kills and junior Emmy Wedgbury finished with nine kills and five aces.
“They’re coming along,” Johnson said. “Emmy on the right side, that’s not a position she played last year or played during club. There’s kind of a learning curve and growing process.
“The big thing we ask of her and Katie is don’t feel like you’ve got to do more than you’re capable of — just play your role and play to your strengths.”
Class 5A’s No. 14 Waterloo West finished the day 2-2 with three of the four matches against ranked opponents. The Wahawks opened with sweeps against 1A’s No. 3 North Tama and Waterloo East, before falling to 1A’s No. 6 Wapsie Valley in the final round of pool play and dropping a 25-11, 25-10 match to Cedar Falls in the semifinals.
Afterward, West coach Ashley Berinobis challenged her team to compete with more energy and excitement.
“I think every team we played today was good competition,” Berinobis said. “We could be a great team, but right now we’re only a good team because we don’t go for the second ball like other teams, we don’t dive on the floor. We’re afraid, other teams are not.”
While Waterloo East didn’t advance out of its pool, the Trojans recovered from a loss to West by pushing Wapsie Valley in both sets and sweeping North Tama.