Saints oust Fairfield in three sets
WASHINGTON, Iowa — The situation seemed all too familiar for the Fairfield volleyball team.
Down two sets to none vs. Cedar Rapids Xavier in the Class 4A Region 6 final Tuesday, the Trojans were desperately in need of one of their postseason comebacks. Perhaps this time, though, their magic had simply run out.
Led by free-swinging outside hitters Kayla Torson and Kasey VandenBosch, Xavier weathered Fairfield’s best shot early and held on for a 25-21, 25-13, 25-15 victory at Washington High School in Washington.
“Just didn’t quite have enough in the tank last night,” Fairfield head coach Nancy Diers said of her players. “They’ve provided us with a lot of good entertainment this year, and a lot of close matches, and you think maybe they can go to that well one more time. It just wasn’t to be.”
After falling just shy of a state tournament berth for the second straight season, the Southeast Conference champions will once again be making the trip to the tourney as spectators. Xavier (26-11), on the other hand, has a date with top-ranked Charles City (42-1) in the first round scheduled Nov. 7 at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena in Cedar Rapids.
Xavier will be going to the tournament on the play of its powerful front row and fundamentally sound back. Rarely did Xavier make a mistake Tuesday, and when the Trojans did, the Saints made them pay. In just three sets, Saints setter Sarah Homan provided 32 assists and Torson and VandenBosch put down 16 and 14 kills, respectively.
“We knew their outside hitters would be a dominant force for them, and they were,” said Diers. “It just looked like they kind of cranked up their hitting in games two and three, and when they did that ... it really took us out of our offense.”
The Trojans had no trouble finding their offense at the contest’s start. A flurry of kills by Fairfield seniors Erin Thompson and Sydney Howard gave the Trojans an early 5-3 advantage, and they stayed out in front the majority of the set. Fairfield stretched its lead to 11-8, and a kill and ace from Sidney Baumann plus a hitting error on Xavier gave the Trojans their largest lead of the night at 14-8.
Xavier clawed back to 15-all, but two straight kills by Baumann and a block by Hanna Greiner and Howard kept Fairfield out in front. Xavier took its first lead since it led 1-0 at 19-18, and it rolled off several more points to take a 23-20 lead and then the 25-21 win.
“We stuck our nose into game one ... and even though we lost it I thought we did some really nice things,” Diers said. “We blocked well, we served well, we dug well and we were kind of just clicking.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t use it enough as a ‘Hey, we can go get this team.’ It kind of felt like the air came out of us, and we had used so much energy that we couldn’t get ourselves to go the next couple games.”
Although Fairfield again grabbed the advantage at the beginning of game two, it wouldn’t hold up for long. After taking a 3-2 lead, Xavier went on a pair of service runs to go up 15-6. A kill by McKenna Ledger and block by Greiner and Thompson whittled Xavier’s lead to 15-8, but it would be almost all Saints in the set’s second half. Xavier put together another run to go up 20-9, and VandenBosch capped the 25-13 win with a kill.
The Trojans kept it close at the beginning of the third set, but it wasn’t long before VandenBosch took over. With the game tied at 6-all, Xavier went on a seven-point run, and VandenBosch had five spikes during the stretch. Baumann scored two kills for Fairfield to keep the Saints within sight, down 15-8. But VandenBosch and Torson continued to find success from the net as Xavier upped their advantage to 23-14. Sydney Howard put down a kill to cut the Saints’ lead to 24-15, yet Xavier closed the set out on its second match point.
“[Xavier] made some real nice adjustments on the court, and our kids were trying hard, but we just didn’t make the adjustments that needed to be done on the fly,” said Diers. “When you get to this part of the season, it’s a read-and-react thing, and we were just reading through the net a little too slow.”
Baumann paced the Trojans with 15 digs, seven kills, and perfect 12-of-12 serving with one ace. Thompson had five kills and two blocks and was 11-of-11 on serves, and Howard tallied 10 digs, four kills and two blocks. The three senior starters, along with Haley Grunwald and Ashley Manning, will create a void that should be hard to replace, Diers said.
“The five of them have been vital to our program. They’ve been with our program since seventh grade and all the way through,” she said. “They’ve all been valuable and contributing factors to our volleyball family.”
Junior libero Cheyanne Laux closed out the season with 14 digs from the back row, and junior setter Sydney Burnett added 11 digs to her team-high nine assists. Alexis Ring provided six assists to go with five digs, while Ledger had four spikes and two blocks and Marisa Repp finished with four kills. Greiner blocked three shots.
“I was really, really pleased with the kids,” Diers added. “I thought they put it all out on the line, and you can’t fault any of our kids for the efforts that they gave.”
The Trojans end the season with a 27-8 match record and 67-29 record in total games played.
Fairfield vs. Cedar Rapids Xavier
FAIRFIELD — 21, 13, 15
XAVIER — 25, 25, 25,
DIGS — (FF) Baumann 15, Laux 14, Burnett 11, Howard 10, Thompson 5, Ring 5, Ledger 2, Manning 1
SERVING — (FF) Baumann 12-12 (1), Thompson 11-11, Burnett 8-8, Ring 7-8, Howard 6-6, Laux 6-7
KILLS — (FF) Baumann 7, Thompson 5, Ledger 4, Repp 4, Howard 4, Burnett 1, Greiner 1
ASSISTS — (FF) Burnett 9, Ring 6, Baumann 1, Howard 1
BLOCKS (solo-asst-tot) — Greiner 0-3-3, Ledger 0-2-2, Howard 0-2-2, Thompson 0-2-2, Repp 0-1-1
SERVE RECEIVE — Baumann 14-17, Laux 13-16, Howard 9-11