CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Sioux City Heelan is in yet another volleyball final four. But it had to grind through four sets to get there.
The Iowa Class 4-A No. 2 Crusaders started strong before holding off No. 8 West Delaware 25-17, 25-19, 17-25, 25-20 late Wednesday evening at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. The victory puts the storied program into a state semifinal for the 10th year in a row.
“It's really, really been amazing,” Heelan coach Mary Miller said. “It just tells you the quality of volleyball that Heelan has had. There have been great coaches throughout.”
Heelan (36-10) draws No. 6 Solon (32-4) Friday at approximately 1:45 p.m. for the right to play in Saturday's championship match.
The Crusaders looked well on their way to a sweep in the early going, taking a two-set lead in dominant fashion.
But the Hawks didn't go quietly in the third. Instead, they led throughout and took over a tight set with a 10-3 stretch to make it 20-13. Standout Leslie Hoffmann — who topped all players with 16 kills — landed her sixth of the frame when her final swing caromed off a Heelan block and out.
Heelan responded in the fourth to close things out. With the score 14-all, Taylor Koolstra picked up a tip kill and added another during five straight points. It officially advanced to the semifinal round when Grace Hanno blasted the ball off a West Delaware passer and out of bounds for her seventh kill.
Miller said her group's late push was far from a given. Senior libero Katelynn Poss (18 digs), sophomore Rachel Vondrak (six kills) and freshmen Grace Hanno (seven kills) and Taylor Ferguson (one kill) had never played under the high-pressure lights.
“You've got four kids that have never played in the state tournament,” Miller said. “I was very pleased with the way they came back and kept the composure in set four.”
Seniors Lauren Brobst and Megan McCarthy turned in 12 kills for Heelan.
Both sides enjoyed long runs of success in the opening set. The Crusaders ran out to an 8-2 lead on kills from five different players, but West Delaware countered with 10 straight to grab a 12-8 edge.
Heelan ran off 11 of the next 13 rallies to take control 19-14 and clinch an early match lead.
The Sioux City squad never trailed in the second. It jumped ahead 6-2 — sparked by a pair of Koolstra kills — then 12-4 before the Hawks got going. Heelan closed it on a 6-2 spurt, celebrating as a West Delaware attempt sailed long.
With earlier matches going long, first serve came 110 minutes after its scheduled time of 7:30.
West Delaware (31-12)....................17 19 25 20
Sioux City Heelan (36-10).............25 25 17 25
WD (kills-aces-blocks): Carlee Ketchum 2-0-1, Addi Brooks 5-0-2, Cassie Vaske 12-0-1, Emily Thole 2-1-2, Haley Morrison 0-3-0, Maddie Coates 0-1-0, Reeann McCarty 0-0-1, Paige Soppe 2-0-0, Leslie Hoffmann 16-4-1.
H: Katelynn Poss 0-0-0, Bridget Blair 3-0-0, Laura Twiford 7-1-2, Lauren Brobst 12-0-5, Taylor Koolstra 9-0-4, Jenna Bork 0-0-0, Megan McCarthy 12-1-4, Rachel Vondrak 6-0-2, Grace Hanno 7-0-2, Taylor Ferguson 1-1-0.
Set assists: WD, Coates 17, Thole 12, Ketchum 7, Vaske 1. H, Ferguson 27, Blair 17, Vondrak 6, McCarthy 2, Twiford 2, Poss 1. Digs: WD, McCarty 15, Thole 15, Ketchum 12, Vaske 11, Soppe 9, Hoffmann 5, Coates 2. H, Poss 18, McCarthy 18, Blair 14, Bork 7, Ferguson 6, Hanno 4, Koolstra 3, Twiford 3, Koolstra 3, Vondrak 2.