CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — With tears streaked across her face, Nevada Meis smiled. Even laughed a little.
As Council Bluffs St. Albert wrapped up its best volleyball season ever, the senior was feeling a little bit of everything.
Defending state champion and Class 2-A No. 1 Dike-New Hartford extinguished the No. 5 Saintes’ postseason run with a 25-17, 25-14, 25-13 sweep in the semifinal round Friday evening at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. St. Albert had earned its first state victory in its second state appearance less than 24 hours before Friday’s loss.
“It’s emotional, I guess,” Meis said. “I’m sad that it’s over, but I’m honored to be on the team we played with.”
The team the Saintes played gave them precious few chances to shock their way into Saturday’s championship match. Dike-New Hartford, ranked No. 9 in the nation by prepvolleyball.com, hit .396, led by Briana Weber’s 18 kills on 30 swings. The 5-foot-9 sophomore and Northern Iowa commit also finished with a team-best 17 digs and two service aces.
“We did very well, we executed very well,” Weber said. “We just had fun doing it, too.”
Meis led St. Albert (29-11) with eight kills. The 6-foot middle also put down a block against Dike-New Hartford’s 6-4 sophomore Brooke Morgan. Sophomore Alli Wettengel (seven kills) and junior Kylie Ferguson (six) were the other big contributors offensively for the Saintes.
Senior libero Katie Kuck performed well in the unenviable duty of stopping Dike-New Hartford’s spikes, collecting 16 digs, while sophomore setter Matti Munger dished out 20 assists.
“We keep talking about raising the bar every year. Last year we raised the bar and this year, even again, we raised it,” St. Albert coach Angie Lantz said. “For us to raise it again, it’s all part of the tradition these girls are building and we hope to keep continuing that tradition.
“With hard work, we know we can get back here again.”
The Saintes looked primed to hang with volleyball’s Goliath early on. Wettengel, Ferguson and Meis earned consecutive kills to put St. Albert ahead 12-11.
But the Wolverines — maybe the best volleyball team St. Albert has ever faced — had no intention of dropping the opener. Now 104-2 in sets on the year, they won seven of the next eight points — six courtesy of kills. In less-than-dramatic fashion, they closed on a 6-1 surge.
St. Albert never led the rest of the day.
“The girls really have such strong focus, and mentally they’re strong and they prepare themselves for each game,” Dike-New Hartford coach Diane Harms said. “They wanted to be in that championship match (Saturday) night, so that helped push and drive them.”
But unlike many teams the Wolverines victimized during their 54-match winning streak, the Saintes weren’t run out of the gym. They fell behind 21-9 in the second set, but managed to win five of the last nine rallies.
Dike-New Hartford ballooned an 8-6 edge in the third into a 19-9 cushion, then mostly traded points the rest of the way. Dike-New Hartford remains perfect in two state matches after sweeping its way to a title last year.
With an athletic frontline of girls at least 5-9, the Wolverines connected on nine blocks and generally made life difficult on St. Albert’s attackers, who hit .122 collectively. Morgan added 12 kills and Lizzy Blough turned in 11 for a group that looks more like a college team than a prep outfit.
While Dike-New Hartford plays No. 2 Western Christian in a rematch of last year’s title match at 4 p.m. Saturday, the Saintes can finally revel in a journey that ended among 2-A’s final four schools.
The Saintes got a standing ovation from their fans. One section was filled with jersey-clad football players, who will play Emmetsburg at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls on Saturday.
“I’m proud of everything we’ve accomplished,” Meis said. “We’re the first team in St. Albert history to make it this far at state. I’m proud of every single girl on our team. They’ve done everything we’ve asked. I couldn’t ask for anything better right now.”
The Saintes lose six seniors, including starters Meis and Kuck. Nicole Rollins, Joni Thomas, Maddy Punteney and Natalie Pace also graduate.
“(Everyone is) excited, they’re exhausted, they’re sad because their season is over,” Lantz said. “They were so close to getting in that finals match.”
Dike-New Hartford (44-0) ................. 25 25 25
CB St. Albert (29-11) ................. 17 14 13
DNH (kills-aces-blocks): Sam Meyer 0-0-0, Briana Weber 18-2-1, Katelyn VanWechel 0-0-0, Brooke Morgan 12-0-4, Rachel Koop 4-0-3, Morgan Samec 0-0-0, Lizzy Blough 11-0-2, Sadie Eden 1-0-2, Ashley Dumler 1-0-4.
SA: Grace Wettengel 2-1-0, Nicole Rollins 0-0-0, Matti Munger 0-1-0, Josie Thomas 0-0-0, Alli Wettengel 7-0-1, Kylie Ferguson 6-0-0, Nevada Meis 8-0-1, Joni Thomas 1-0-0, Katie Kuck 0-1-0.
Set assists: DNH, Koop 37, Roberts 3, Samec 2, Weber 1; SA, Munger 20, Josie Thomas 2, Grace Wettengel 1. Digs: DNH, Weber 17, Meyer 4, Koop 5, Samec 4, Blough 7, Roberts 8, Eden 1. SA, Kuck 16, Ferguson 9, Josie Thomas 6, Munger 5, Grace Wettengel 6.