HUXLEY – Not this time.
One year after suffering a gut-wrenching upset loss to Bondurant-Farrar in the regional semifinals, the Nevada volleyball team got another shot against the Bluejays in the Class 3A regional Finals Tuesday.
With a trip to state in the balance the Cubs, ranked fifth in 3A, looked like a completely different team than the one that took the floor against the Bluejays a year ago.
Nevada came out calm and confident on Tuesday. The Cubs executed as well as they have all season, and in the rare occasions they got in a pickle, they displayed great poise to overcome the adversity each time.
The No. 13 Bluejays never stood chance.
Nevada pulled off a convincing sweep to punch its tickets to state for the first time since 2008 and just the second time in school history.
“I don’t even know how to describe it right now,” Nevada senior outside hitter Megan Pringnitz said. “I don’t even know what I’m feeling. It’s just amazing.”
Pringnitz was a major player on last year’s team. She said revenge was on everyone’s mind once the regional brackets came out.
“Honestly, that loss hurt so bad and we all still remember it,” Pringnitz said. “We knew we needed to come out this year and show that shouldn’t have happened; that it was a mistake. We came out, worked our hardest and it showed.”
Nevada won by scores of 25-23, 25-20 and 25-17 Tuesday. The match was actually decided in that competitive first set as Nevada rallied from a 23-20 deficit and never looked back.
Pringnitz got the ball rolling in the comeback win with a kill following a Nevada timeout. Middle blocker Kati Cassabaum came up with a big ace and Emma Lodestein followed with an ace to tie the score.
Pringnitz then hammered home a kill for the go-ahead point and Cassabaum slammed home a kill to finish off the Bluejays.
“We all knew if we gave up that first set, they would have the momentum and it would be really hard to overcome that,” Pringnitz. “We knew we needed to push through and finish it.”
Cassabaum took charge to start the second set as she delivered four kills in a row to give Nevada a 4-1 lead out of the gate. Bondurant-Farrar regrouped to hang tough for awhile, but the Cubs gradually began to pull away late in the set.
Freshman outside hitter Abby Stephenson came up big with consecutive kills to give Nevada a 20-16 cushion, and Pringnitz finished off the win with a pair of kills.
With a commanding two-set advantage, Nevada started a little too relaxed in the third set. A Givanna Vance kill capped off a 9-4 Bluejay run to start the set.
But Nevada regrouped to tie the score and then a Pringnitz kill gave the Cubs an 11-10 lead. The two teams traded blows for a stretch, but Nevada began to assert itself late in the set.
Big kills from Cassabaum and Stephenson helped Nevada take a 23-16 lead, then Lodestein added another kill to set up game point. On game point Pringnitz took charge – taking a nice set from Michaela Matuska and converting on the decisive kill to send her team to Cedar Rapids.
“I told Michaela to set me up,” Pringnitz said. “I wanted it. I wanted to finish this.”
Pringnitz ended up with 12 kills, nine digs and two blocks on the night. Cassabaum was a force in the middle with 15 kills and two blocks, Lodestein had three blocks and kills apiece along with two of the five Cub aces and Mara Rhodes chipped in three kills.
Matuska did a masterful job running the Cub attack in handing out 26 assists and keeping the Bluejays off balance all match. Jessica Helton and Erin Francis played well in the back row in combining for 16 digs and they also each chipped in one ace.
Stephenson, meanwhile, performed like a four-year veteran instead of a nervous freshman. She compiled 15 digs and nine kills and also provided tremendous energy on the floor all match.
“I have just always been told to go out and play like you belong,” Stephenson said. “Go out there like you can do it all. That has helped me in sports my whole life.”
With the victory Nevada improved to 32-11. It was the Cubs’ 13th triumph in a row dating back to an Oct. 5 tournament in Waverly.
“The beautiful thing about this team is almost all year long their best match as been the last match they played,” Nevada head coach James Brockway said. “Every time we get to a knew match we learn from our last match and they’re great at applying what we learn so the next match is even better. They’re just an awesome team.”
Next up for Nevada is a date with No.4 Union (27-7) in the 3A state quarterfinals. The match will start at 10 a.m. next Wednesday at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.
Bondurant-Farrar completed its season with a 26-14 record. Vance had eight kills and one block, Lexi Atzen contributed 16 digs, seven kills and one block and Madi Atzen recorded 18 digs and one ace in a losing effort for the Bluejays.