Breaking Down the Area Regional Volleyball Finals

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Photo by Rob Howe

Ryan Murken

Your Prep Sports

No. 14 City High (17-14) vs. No. 6 West Des Moines Dowling (31-11)

Class 5A Region 4 Final

Where: West Des Moines Dowling

When: Monday, 7 p.m.

Player to Watch: West Des Moines Dowling junior Grace Evans ranks second on the team with 224 kills and the 6-foot-1 Evans has a team-high 49 blocks and 31 ace serves.

About the Little Hawks: City High is seeking to return to the state tournament for the first time since 2014 after sweeping cross-town rival West High in its playoff opener last week.

City High has gone 12-6 since a 5-8 start to the season with five of those six losses coming to top-10 ranked opponents.

The Little Hawks have one of the top hitters in Class 5A in senior Kelsey Law but will need to employ a balanced attack against a stout Dowling front line.

Senios Mia Loughran (144 kills) and Cecelia Aldrich-Ingram (132 kills) are both capable hitters that can provide some balance to the Little Hawk attack.  

About the Maroons: The 11 losses for West Des Moines Dowling are more than double the loss total for any of the five teams ranked above the Maroons in the Class 5A rankings.

However, the rugged schedule the Maroons have faced is one of the things that figures to make Dowling a tough out in the postseason.

All 11 losses have come to teams ranked in the top eight in Class 5A, 4A and or 3A including seven losses to top four 5A teams.

Dowling enters playing its best volleyball of the season, winning 13 of its last 15 matches, a stretch that includes nine wins over ranked opponents.

The Maroons are 6-0 at home this season with three-set sweeps over ninth-ranked Ankeny Centennial and fourth-ranked Ankeny.

Balance is key for Dowling with five players with more than 145 kills led by senior Anna Godfredsen with 259 and Evans with 224.

What to Watch: Law leads Class 5A with 4.87 kills per set and will likely need to get rolling early for City High to stay in the match.

The 5-foot-11 Law had 19 kills on .359 hitting in the sweep of West High and has had a hitting percentage of over .300 in each of her past three best of five matches.

No. 2 Liberty High (33-2) vs. No. 11 Dubuque Hempstead (20-13)

Class 5A Region 7 Final

Where: Liberty High

When: Monday, 7 p.m.

Player to Watch: Junior Corinne Meier leads Dubuque Hempstead with 333 kills and 39 ace serves and ranks third on the team with 274 digs to go with 30 blocks.

About the Lightning: Liberty High will look to continue what has already been a historic season with its first state tournament appearance. The Lightning surpassed the win total from their first two varsity seasons combined with a sweep of Muscatine in its postseason opener and have quickly established themselves as a title contender in Class 5A.

Liberty High swept Dubuque Hempstead in North Liberty last month in the lone regular season meeting between the two teams.

The Lightning have won 20 of their last 21 matches since a loss at Dubuque Wahlert on September 17 with the lone loss during that stretch coming to Class 5A top-ranked Cedar Falls.

Liberty High has used a balanced offensive approach this season with four players posting more than 150 kills.

Freshman Cassidy Hartmann leads the way with 225 kills while senior LeeAnn Potter has 213 kills while Sydney Woods has 158 and Shelby Kimm adds 153.

Rylee Fay and Hailey Hested have combined for 826 assists and 111 ace serves while junior Addie Schmierer has a team-high 255 digs.

About the Mustangs: Dubuque Hempstead went 6-6 in to close the regular season, a stretch that began with a loss to Liberty High on October 8.

The Mustangs rebounded from its tough stretch to close the regular season with its second five-set win of the season over Linn-Mar in the regional semifinals.

Corinne Meier had 24 of the Mustangs’ 45 kills and added seven ace serves in the semifinal win over Linn-Mar.

The 6-foot Meier is the only Mustang with more than 101 kills this season and has 916 attempts this season while the next highest number of hitting attempts for a Hempstead player is 260.

Junior Becca Lockwood has 101 kills for Hempstead on a team-high .235 hitting percentage while Leah Moeller has 76 kills.

What to Watch: The ability for Hempstead to get Meier going could be the key in this one. Meier had 10 kills on 33 attempts in the regular season loss to the Lightning and will likely need to improve on those totals on Monday for the Mustangs to pull the upset.

Meanwhile balance is the key for the Lightning who are at their most dangerous when multiple players approach double figures in kills.

Four players had a least five kills for Liberty High in the regular season sweep of Dubuque Hempstead and three players had seven or more kills in the semifinal sweep of Muscatine.

West Branch (21-15) vs. No. 4 Wilton (34-3)

Class 2A Region 8 Final

Where: Durant

When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.

Players to Watch: West Branch senior Kaiya Luneckas leads the Bears with 312 kills and ranks third on the team with 60 blocks and is averaging 15 kills per match in a pair of postseason wins.

About the Bears: West Branch went 5-9 down the stretch but has responded with back-to-back postseason wins over Alburnett and Cascade.

The Bears dropped a pair of two-set matches to Cascade over the final two weeks for the regular season but didn’t allow more than 16 points in a set in a road sweep of the Cougars in the regional semifinals.

Kaiya Luneckas is averaging a team-best 4.3 kills per set during postseason play while sophomore Lexi Klinkkammer is averaging 3.6 kills per set in back-to-back regional wins.

That balance is the key for West Branch which is dangerous when it can get production to pair with kill leaders Luneckas and Klinkkammer (235 kills).

Junior Jaclyn Bloem has 100 kills and leads the Bears with 80 blocks while sophomore Delaynie Luneckas has 94 kills and 71 blocks on the season.

About the Beavers: Do-it-all sophomores Kelsey Drake and Ella Caffery make everything go for Wilton.

The 5-foot-10 sophomores lead the Beavers in kills and assists, rank second and third on the team in digs and are first and third in ace serves.

Drake leads the team in kills (361), blocks (70) and ace serves (65) while Caffery has the top total in assists (467) and ranks second in kills (293) and blocks (68).

There is plenty of help for the talented sophomore duo as well. Senior Taylor Garvin has 147 kills while sophomore Alexa Garvin has 109 kills and 56 ace serves.

Sophomore Mallory Lange leads the team with 330 digs and freshman Olivia Oveson has 41 blocks.

With just two seniors and three total upperclassmen on the roster the Beavers are among the youngest teams in the state.

Wilton is unbeaten against Class 2A competition this season with all three of its losses coming to top-eight Class 3A opponents Davenport Assumption, West Liberty and Tipton.

What to Watch: Can West Branch find a way to slow Drake and Caffery? Slowing the talented sophomore duo is easier said than done and few teams have found a way but West Branch will need to at least slow Caffery and Drake to have a chance to pull the upset.

Drake and Caffery combined for 34 of the Beavers’ 39 kills in a regular season sweep of West Branch.

Caffery hit .541 and Drake .385 in the regular season meeting in which West Branch pushed the Bears in the first (25-20) and third sets (25-20).

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