Oct. 26—CONRAD — Only one team would have the opportunity to earn their first trip to a state volleyball tournament after Monday's 1A regional semifinal.
BCLUW took full advantage, sweeping Sigourney on Monday in their home roundhouse gymnasium 25-8, 25-15 and 25-15 to advance to the Class 1A, Region 5 semifinals. The fourth-ranked Comets moved on to Marshalltown's home roundhouse to sweep another South Iowa Cedar League rival, Lynnville-Sully, 25-11, 25-12 and 25-14 earning the program's first state tournament appearance.
"It's kind of fun to think that we're not done yet and we're going to keep rolling," BCLUW head volleyball coach Abby Stephenson said. "It's all part of buying into the process of wanting to play at a really high level. That's something we like to hold as a standard on our volleyball team. That's a huge focus when we're preparing for any match."
That up-tempo play allowed BCLUW to jump out to commanding leads in all three sets against Sigourney, who returned to the regional semifinals for the second time in three seasons. The Comets jumped out to a 9-2 lead in the opening set hammering down five early kills as Savages scrambled to keep up defensively.
"We haven't seen as quick a ball movement as them this season," Sigourney senior Amiya Smallwood said of the Comets. "It took awhile to adjust to it. By then, it was too late."
The Comets used the up-tempo offense to collect 34 kills, including 15 from 6-1 freshman Olivia Peters. Sydney Anderson added three aces in the opening set as BCLUW built a commanding 19-3 lead.
"We definitely improved towards the end of the match catching on," Smallwood said. "If it was a set earlier, we might have been able to come back."
Sigourney closed the match recording 11 of their 13 kills against the Comets in the final two games, taking a two-point lead early in the second set before cutting into BCLUW's lead in the third. BCLUW's defense, however, made it even tougher for the Savages to find the open court coming up with 10 blocks and 50 digs in the match.
"They're defense is amazing. They get to balls that you wouldn't think they'd have a chance of getting up," Sigourney head volleyball coach Sierra Davis said. "Our nerves also got the best of us. We came out and played a little scared in the first game. We kind of had to work our way out of that and find energy out of that first game."
Peters added 16 more kills on Wednesday against Lynnville-Sully as the Comets scored on 43 winners while adding seven blocks and 48 digs against Sigourney's SICL rival. The Hawks were limited to 13 kills by BCLUW's defense, allowing the Comets to easily sweep their way to a regional championship.
"You just need to play to your full potential (against BCLUW)," Sigourney junior Reagan Clarahan said. "A lot of it comes down to confidence. You have to go in with the feeling that it can be done. You just have to leave it all on the court and give it your all."
BCLUW will carry a 34-10 record into their first state tournament, earning the No. 4 team in the eight-team Class 1A field. The Comets will face Saint Ansgar (24-6) on court one at Xtreme Arena in Coralville in the 1A quarterfinals starting at approximately 8 p.m.
Sigourney, meanwhile, concludes the season with a record of 17-9. The Savages made strides this season contending for the SICL championship for the second straight year while securing the program's first win over Belle Plaine since 2009 scored in the regional quarterfinals with a 25-11, 25-15, 19-25, 25-11 victory at home over the Plainsmen last Wednesday.
"That was a good note to end our season on," Clarahan said. "Our program has a had a big turnaround these last couple years. Everything is starting to get better every year that we go."
Smallwood, Darby Mitchell, Lana Thomas, Emma Hammes, Ava Fineran and Chelsey Pfannebecker graduate for the Savages. Sigourney has now posted three consecutive winning seasons and will continue seeking to make strides next year at moving towards the program's first SICL title and a potential state tournament berth in 2024.
"That's the goal every year," Davis said. "Putting the work in during the offseason is going to be huge for these girls. We were kind of in the same boat this season as the season before in terms of losing most of our team. The girls definitely stepped up. We're just hoping the juniors, the sophomores and the freshmen to come will be able to do the same next season."
— Scott Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.