CEDAR FALLS—Cedar Falls volleyball coach Matt Johnson recorded his 500th career victory over the weekend, but his Tigers were not going to be satisfied with that number.
With metro rival Waterloo East coming to town, Class 5A’s top-ranked Cedar Falls (8-0) kept the pedal down and did not let up Tuesday night at Cedar Falls High School.
The Tigers shifted into high gear immediately, and cruised to a 25-10, 25-7, 25-7 conference victory leaving many to wonder who can challenge the juggernaut that Johnson has built.
“Coach keeps telling us in practice that we are our toughest opponent right now,” said senior outside hitter Jada Golden-Smith. “We know we are a good team, but we also know that we need to stay honest to ourselves and work hard every day as a team.
“Our mindset going into every game is to play our best and never get too big of a head. We play as a team because everyone on this team is a good player and we all know our roles.”
Golden-Smith knew her role immediately as she began to pound the Trojans defense early and often.
With kills leader Akacia Brown (82) in the back row, Golden-Smith doubled her year-to-date kills total from nine to 18.
“I just get into this zone and tune everything else out,” said Golden-Smith. “When I get that first kill, I just want the ball, but I also know what my role is here.
“We have so many good hitters that can do the job and it is almost scary. It doesn’t matter if it is Akacia, who is so good at everything, or anyone else on the team, we know we are going to get it done.”
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Golden-Smith picked up three kills in a row, to put the Tigers up 7-1 in the second set. Cedar Falls never looked back, cruising to a pair of 25-7 victories in the final two sets.
“Jada is a good example of what we have here at Cedar Falls,” Johnson said. “She is a senior now and waited for her time to play. She worked and worked her butt off and has stepped into her role.
“She is so laid back and such a great teammate to all, but most of all she is just a great kid. This team is like that. We are still in the infancy stage and we are still trying to find out who we are. We are a little behind from where we want to be and a lot of kids are beginning to step into their roles.”
A Cedar Falls team with room to improve could be intimidating for the rest of the conference. Setter Emerson Green finished with 20 assists and eight digs. Kirsten Graves led the Tigers with nine digs and Brown and Emmy Wedgbury tallied three aces apiece.
“They are a really good team with so many weapons it’s scary,” said Trojans coach Corey Kennis. “Playing against them gave us the opportunity to see what we need to get better at. We had set a lot of individual goals coming into tonight, and we reached some of those.”
The Trojans (4-3) put up a good fight against the Tigers in the first set and tied the score 2-2 off a Sydney Magnuson kill. East later pulled within 7-5 after a Cedar Falls error and Alonzia Quinn kill.
From that point on, the Tigers’ front wall dominated and built a 16-7 lead on their way to a 25-10 win.
“We just wanted to do the little things well and limit our mistakes,” said Kennis. “We wanted to keep Brown honest and I think for the most part we did a good job adjusting to her. We played the number one team tonight and we learned a lot.”