CEDAR RAPIDS – The slow start was nearly forgotten.
Down two sets to one, Janesville was up five points in set four and on the verge of forcing a fifth and deciding game against Council Bluffs St. Albert Tuesday in a Class 1A state volleyball quarterfinal at the Alliant Energy PowerHouse.
Then a pair of Wildcat defenders went up to block a shot and a second later standout setter Gabby Gergen was writhing in pain on the ground after landing on a teammates foot and rolling her right ankle.
“I’m not sure what happened,” Gergen said. “We went up for a block and we both kind of landed on each other.”
At the time, Janesville led the fourth set, 18-13, and actually won the first two points with her on the bench getting her ankle tapped. A limited Gergen got back into the match with the Wildcats leading, 22-17, and stretched that to 24-19.
But St. Albert, who entered the postseason with a losing record, 10-13, turned to standouts Allie Petry and Lauren Williams and stormed back, winning the final seven points to complete the upset, 25-20, 25-18, 18-25, 26-24.
“We were doing well,” said Gergen, who had 34 assists, 11 kills and five ace serves in her final match at Janesville. “I think we would’ve taken that fourth game, but things kind of fell apart when I got hurt and they started coming after me a bit.”
Petry and Williams helped the Saintes (15-13) open strong as St. Albert controlled the first two sets as Janesville looked out of sync. Petry finished with 25 kills and a .460 attack rate and Williams had 17 while hitting at .441 success rate.
“We knew they were a good team, a really good team,” Janesville head coach Shelly Sorensen said. “They played really well those first two sets and we tightened up a little bit and just couldn’t get our offense going consistently.
“They controlled those sets. We talked about it saying we are letting them control play and we need to play more aggressively, play to win instead of playing along.”
That is what showed in third set as the Wildcats (28-5) overcame an early four-point deficit to take the lead and then close on a 6-0 to stay alive. Gergen led the charge with her serving and a more aggressive approach at the net scoring several key kills, attacking on two. That same recipe was working in set four before Gergen got injured, too.
And with backup setter Kamryn Umthum unavailable, the Wildcats were in trouble.
“Being a senior I needed to step up or we were not going to win,” Gergen said. “I didn’t want that to be our last match so I became more aggressive and that helped a lot.”
Janesville's Pyper McCarville had 15 kills and Marra Fitzgerald 11. McCarville also had 20 digs.
“We could’ve thrown in the towel there, so I’m proud of our girls for coming back and fighting back into the fourth,” Sorensen said. “To have the injury and have that set back we just couldn’t hang on. Very proud of the effort, we just didn’t have the total performance.
“There are a lot of good teams down here and you have to be able to push through and unfortunately things didn’t go our way.”
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