CEDAR RAPIDS -- Western Christian imposed its will on Grundy Center early, and rose to the occasion after Spartans fought back late Thursday afternoon in the Class 2A state volleyball semifinals.
Class 2A's defending state champion Wolfpack used its finishing touch to prevail over Grundy Center, 25-16, 25-21, 25-21.
Jessi De Jager recorded 15 kills and Ashtyn Veerbeek finished with 13 to lead a Western Christian team (39-6) that was held to .169 hitting but came up with the timely points. Grundy Center (37-7) held a slim 7-6 advantage in blocks and had three players reach double figures in digs, led by Kyah Luhring's 14 and Landry Luhring's 12.
"I definitely think they did everything they could to give themselves a chance," Grundy Center coach Lori Willis said of her team's effort. "They were matching them toe to toe."
While Western Christian took a commanding 18-7 lead in the opening set, Grundy Center gained a momentum with a late run and held leads of 21-19 in set two and 16-15 in set three before the Wolfpack found the closing touch.
"They got most of the kills off of tips," Willis said of Western's late set adjustments. "You really don't see that too often, but they were tipping the ball where we weren't and that's really hard to defend."
Western Christian coach Tammi Veerbeek noted Grundy Center's balance presented a major challenge and the Spartans used that variety of options to pressure the Wolfpack over the final two sets.
Hailey Wallis led Grundy Center's attack with nine kills. Kylie Willis tallied seven kills and 11 digs, and Emy Kracht finished with six kills, assists and five digs.
Landry Luhring is the lone senior starter who graduates from this Spartans team that has made back-to-back state runs.
"This year we've made tremendous growth," Wallis said. "We've won a lot more games, we've gotten further in the state tournament. We are just really comfortable with each other.
"Each year we're going to try and keep taking a step up."