Rebels steal GVC’s thunder

No. 11 Gladbrook-Reinbeck volleyball team advances to fourth-straight regional final

The 11th-ranked Gladbrook-Reinbeck volleyball team celebrates after scoring the final point of its 3-0 sweep of Grand View Christian on Monday night in Reinbeck. The Rebels advanced to their fourth-straight regional final by beating the Thunder 25-17, 25-9, 25-20. Photo by Ross Thede

Gladbrook-Reinbeck pushed its pair into the middle, going all-in to stop Grand View Christian’s best chance at stealing the pot.

The Thunder didn’t bluff, but their hand just wasn’t strong enough.

The No. 11 Gladbrook-Reinbeck volleyball team turned away Grand View Christian at the net and forced the Thunder out of their comfort zone, and eventually the Rebels won their way into the regional finals for the fourth year in a row with Monday’s 3-0 sweep, 25-17, 25-9, 25-20.

Gladbrook-Reinbeck (28-13) will face No. 6 Ankeny Christian Academy (33-3) at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Roundhouse in Marshalltown in the Class 1A Region 3 finals in hopes of returning to state a year after claiming runner-up honors.

G-R head coach Paula Kelley said it’s a possibility, too, if her team continues to play the way it did for most of Monday night.

G-R junior outside hitter Ava Wyatt, right, registers one of her match-high 11 kills against Grand View Christian defender Lexi Livingston (10) during Monday’s match in Reinbeck. Photo by Ross Thede

“The kids just brought it tonight,” she said. “We’ve had a couple good days of practice and tonight they put everything together, not one aspect was down. We had great serving — which we’ve struggled with here and there — and then our passing went with it, and when you’ve got your passing you’ve got your setting and then you’ve got your swings.”

Monday’s regional semifinal was not without its many swings of momentum, but none proved more prominent than a 9-0 surge by the Rebels late in the opening set. After back-to-back aces by Grand View Christian’s Ella Ober, Gladbrook-Reinbeck rattled off a nine-point run served up by Megan Cooley to break a 15-all tie and reach set point. The Thunder scored off a pair of G-R errors before junior outside hitter Ava Wyatt finished the game with her third kill of the night.

After a slow start, Wyatt found her swing and boosted the Rebels through the second set with relative ease. She registered a block on an overpass after G-R senior middle hitter Katie Clark helped prolong an early point with an improbable one-handed dig, and Wyatt’s thunderous kill down the line kicked off a 12-1 Gladbrook-Reinbeck run.

That and the Rebels’ defense in the middle spelled the end of the line for Grand View Christian (23-22).

“We knew that the middles were going to be a key to their whole front row so we had a really good game plan coming in how we wanted to handle them and how we wanted to set up defensively, and it worked,” said Kelley. “We were able to get some really good touches on their swings … and I don’t know if they were ready for or anticipated having a lot of that.”

The Rebels finished with just two blocks, as Wyatt had the aforementioned solo stuff and combined with Clark for another, but Grand View Christian’s primary attack was thwarted. G-R even threw a triple block at the Thunder’s middle hitters Sydney Brandmeyer and Kylie Hoben, though it might not have been by design.

“We might have on accident,” Wyatt said. “They probably weren’t on purpose but they kept putting their middles in different places so I think our best way to defend that was to get all of us up there. We didn’t really know where they were coming from so we based our block on shifting on one side to try to contain them to the other and it worked out pretty well.”

The Rebels held GVC’s kills leaders to four apiece, while Brandmeyer and Hoben combined for nine swinging errors against the sturdy G-R wall. Ober added four kills and a match-high five aces, but Clark, Cooley and outside hitters Wyatt, Mahayla Olson and Lily Dripps helped to thwart the Thunder up front.

“I think our momentum shifted,” Wyatt said. “We knew how to stop them and just keep pushing and as long as we stop the middles we know how to contain everything else so that really kept our offense moving.”

G-R breezed through the second set for a 2-0 lead and was in prime position to finish off GVC after a 7-0 spurt made it 18-10 Rebels in the third. The Thunder matched their largest streak of the night as a pair of aces by Ober and Brandmeyer’s block on Cooley sparked a five-point run to get Grand View Christian within 20-17.

It even forced Kelley into calling timeout, and Gladbrook-Reinbeck responded by climbing out of its momentary rut.

“They did a great job of not panicking,” Kelley said. “The girls were getting a little flustered and they needed to know it was OK. We still had the lead at the time and they needed to get back in focus and play their game.”

Wyatt registered her match-high 11th kill to end G-R’s drought, and junior libero Breehan Dubberke got one of her three service aces to help the Rebels finish off the Thunder in three.

G-R served 63-for-69 with eight aces — three by Dubberke, three for junior setter Emma McClintock and two for Cooley — in a pivotal part of the Rebels’ commanding victory.

“We knew we were going to have to keep them out of system as much as we did so (assistant coach) Chris (Kuehl) called a fantastic game of serves and the kids did a great job hitting their spots. When you take another team out of their game plan it’s hard for them to be able to get in a rhythm when you’re not used to playing the way you want to.”

Behind Wyatt’s 11 kills, Cooley, Clark and Dripps added four kills apiece and Olson added two more. McClintock totaled 24 assists and led the defense with nine digs.

“We really came together as a team,” Wyatt said. “We’ve been struggling with that a little bit this season but we learned to play for each other and get rid of those errors, leave it behind and work to get the next point.”

For the Rebels, the next point is a place in the regional finals in hopes of earning their third trip to state over the last four seasons.

“It’s exciting because after this, the next step is state so there’s a lot on the line for them,” Kelley said. “But we’ve been there before, we know what it’s going to take.”