Carroll Kuemper breaks through to final
Kuemper Catholic’s Kara Peter (left) recorded 26 kills to lead the Knights into the Class 3-A championship match with a five-game win over Osage. The Knights will play Tipton at 2:30 p.m. Friday.​

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Pressure often comes with lofty expectations. And top-ranked Carroll Kuemper certainly felt its share of it over the course of its Class 3-A semifinal match against Osage on Thursday.

The Knights have been ranked No. 1 all season and carried the favorite tag into the state tournament. But they were down a set heading into the fourth set at the U.S. Cellular Center. Then it really got tense.

Kuemper (44-1) trailed 19-17 in the fourth then squandered a 5-0 advantage in the finale before surviving a 25-18, 23-25, 21-25, 25-21, 15-13 thriller with the No. 6 Green Devils to keep its season alive.

After falling in the semifinals in each of the three previous seasons, the Knights will play for a state title on Friday. They’ll face No. 2 Tipton (39-3), a four-set winner over Mount Vernon, in the 2:30 p.m. match.

“Statistically, we did not do our best,” Kuemper coach Keith Stickrod said. “But I think, tomorrow, we can relax. We have our goal now — to get to the championship game. Now we’ve just got to finish it.”

Junior Kara Peter propelled Thursday’s rally by recording eight kills and four blocks over the final two sets. Whenever the Knights seemed to be on the edge of a breakdown, their 6-foot-3 middle blocker came through.

“We just had to play our game,” she said. “We started beating ourselves, and I knew we couldn’t. We had to stay up and play as one. We started doing that, and we took our momentum and went off that.”

Peter finished with 26 kills and 12 total blocks. She ended the match for Kuemper, which was two points away from a fourth straight semifinal loss, with back-to-back kills and then a solo block on match point.

South Dakota recruit Aimee Adams tallied 19 kills and 17 digs for the Knights in the five-set thriller.

“I’m still in shock. I feel like I’m dreaming,” she said. “I’m excited for tomorrow. It’s going to be so fun.”Kuemper pulled away to win the opener by scoring the final six points. It then trailed for much of the second set and fell behind 6-0 to begin the third. It pushed to get back into both, but the Devils held on.

Osage was down early in the fourth but forged ahead at 18-17 on a kill by Paige Kisley. Libero Kourtney Chambers followed with a service ace that put the Devils within striking distance of the 3-A title match.

Kuemper seniors Grace Molak and Adams responded with consecutive kills to tie it back up. Then the Knights outscored Osage 6-2 to finish the fourth set and even up the match. The tight finale followed.

“I kept reminding my coaching staff, we have to be the calm ones,” Stickrod said. “We had to stay calm and let the girls do what we do. We had a tough match against Sergeant Bluff-Luton earlier this season when we probably played our worst volleyball ever. This reminded me of that, and the girls came back.”

Carroll Kuemper (44-1).............25 23 21 25 15

Osage (30-7).............................18 25 25 21 13

CK (kills-aces-blocks): Kenya Trausch 0-0-0, Aimee Adams 19-1-0, Grace Molak 8-0-1, Anna Niehaus 7-0-5, Courtney Schenkelberg 7-0-2, Brooklyn Bakke 0-0-0, Kara Peter 26-0-12, Maci Overmohle 0-1-2, Mallory Badding 0-2-0. Totals 67-4-22.

O: Kourtney Chambers 0-0-0, Danielle Johnson 18-0-2, Sydney Midlang 17-0-5, Paige Kisley 13-0-2, Kaebre Sullivan 8-0-5, Meredith Street 0-0-0, Rylie Olson 2-1-2, Ellie Bobinet 1-1-2. Totals 59-2-18.

Set assists: CK 59 (Overmohle 56, Badding 3). O 58 (Olson 54, Chambers 2, Midlang 1, Kisley 1).

Sidney falls against power

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Prep volleyball power Hull Western Christian was making its state-record 18th straight appearance in the state tournament semifinals when it met Sidney at the U.S. Cellular Center.

When that unprecedented run of success was in its infancy, so were the current Wolfpack players.

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve been coming to watch the Wolfpack play at the state tournament,” Macay Van’t Hul said. “To actually be able to play here is cool. It’s been my dream since I was little.”

Van’t Hul, a 6-foot-1 junior middle, helped a balanced attack with 15 kills Thursday as No. 3 Western Christian swept the fourth-ranked Cowgirls 25-20, 25-17, 25-15 to advance to Friday’s Class 2-A final.

Sidney (39-3) entered the semifinal having won 37 matches in a row. But the Cowgirls led only briefly in the third set, 1-0 and 3-1, as the Wolfpack (41-5) played from in front for nearly the entire time.

“They kept us out of transition,” Sidney coach Amy McClintock said. “They served hard, and we struggled. They picked on some of our kids that don’t pass as well as the other kids. When our passes aren’t up front and we can’t run a faster tempo, they’re 5-10 or 6-foot girls and they’re waiting for us.”

The Wolfpack keyed on Sidney hitters Camryn McClintock and Kelsey Hobbie, who combined for 42 kills in a quarterfinal win over Tri-Center on Wednesday. Western Christian held them to a total of 18 on Thursday.

“It was their night,” coach McClintock said. “They’ve been through this so much that they know how to prepare. We knew we had to pass well, and we kind of struggled in that area. That was a big difference.”

Sidney (39-3)............................20 17 15

Western Christian (41-5)...........25 25 25

S (kills-aces-blocks): Olivia Larsen 0-0-0, Maddy Duncan 2-0-1, Harley Spurlock 2-0-0, Kelsey Hobbie 11-0-1, Camryn McClintock 7-2-0, Presley Brumbaugh 3-1-0, Savannah Hall 0-0-0, Jaden Daffer 1-0-0, Paige Smith 0-0-0. Totals 26-3-2.

WC: Olivia Granstra 0-0-1, Tori Wynja 8-2-1, Ally Postma 9-0-0, Chandler Schemper 8-0-0, Macay Van’t Hul 12-0-2, Sienna Moss 4-0-1, Makenna Koima 0-0-0, Madison Hofman 2-5-0, Kayla Zevenbergen 0-0-0, Emma Bousema 0-2-0, Madison Vis 0-0-0. Totals 43-9-5.

Set assists: S 24 (Larsen 24), WC 41 (Granstra 29, Wynja 9, Schemper 2, Hofman 1).

Walhert takes control late

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Top-ranked Sergeant Bluff-Luton got off to a great start in its rematch with reigning Class 4-A state champion Dubuque Wahlert in Thursday’s semifinal at the U.S. Cellular Center.

The Warriors, who lost to the Golden Eagles in last year’s final, scored 13 of the first 18 points and cruised to a comfortable win in the opener. But late in the set, it lost momentum and never got it back.

No. 4 Wahlert (25-12) controlled the final three sets of its 18-25, 25-19, 25-21, 25-15 win over the Warriors (35-7). The Golden Eagles  look to extend their record number of state titles to 20.

“They started to get three- and four-point runs,” said Sergeant Bluff-Luton coach Renee Winkel, whose team was in its third tournament in four years. “That’s what helped us in the first and what hurt us in two, three and four — letting those runs slip away. It’s a game of momentum. We just weren’t able to counter those.”

South Dakota recruit Madison Harms led Sergeant Bluff-Luton with 12 kills Thursday while Kenzie Foley tallied 11.

Dubuque Wahlert (25-12)................18 25 25 25

Sergeant Bluff-Luton (35-7).............25 19 21 15

DW: Alliyah Carter 24-2-2, Emma Duehr 2-1-1, Maddie McCarron 0-0-0, Carolyn Conlon 10-0-3, Grace Lueken 10-0-2, Lauryn Montgomery 0-0-0, Morgan Montgomery 6-0-0. Totals 52-3-8.

SBL: Brooklyn Huberty 0-1-0, Mia Gamet 0-1-0, Maya Schmidt 0-1-0, Abby Minten 1-3-0, Elle Sneller 9-0-1, Kenzie Foley 11-3-0, Kate Stangel 4-0-1, Madison Harms 12-0-2, Abby Wisecup 3-0-1, Kaitlyn Uhlrich 0-0-0, Emma Salker 2-0-3. Totals 42-9-9.

Set assists: DW 47 (L. Montgomery 47), SBL 37 (Schmidt 19, Stangel 10, Foley 3, Gamet 2, Minten 2, Harms 1).

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