Rebels roll Riceville to reach regional finals
All Gladbrook-Reinbeck head volleyball coach Paula Kelley had to do was stand by and watch. The Rebels had prepared for the moment and it was up to them to perform accordingly.
Fourth-ranked Gladbrook-Reinbeck buried Riceville in the Class 1A Region 5 semifinals, advancing to the regional finals for the fifth year in a row with Monday’s 25-18, 25-5, 25-13 walloping of the Wildcats.
The Rebels (31-9) will square off with No. 15 Dunkerton (23-14) in Wednesday’s best-of-five showdown at Cedar Falls High School with a shot at the state tournament on the line. Gladbrook-Reinbeck has qualified for three of the last four, while Dunkerton will arrive in search of its first trip to state.
It was the Rebels’ vast experience advantage that let Kelley stand at the end of the team bench and observe as her squad took care of business on the court.
“We just needed to execute,” she said. “We scouted, we saw what we needed to see in their strengths, we worked on those in practice, we knew where we needed to cover for defense and just needed to go out and play and execute on our side.
“I feel like we had the height advantage and we had the experience on our side as well, which made it happen for us at the end.”
The Rebels took a while to find their groove, but once the passes started to fall into senior setter Emma McClintock’s lap, Riceville (26-17) had little chance. With G-R’s full arsenal on display, the visitors fell behind too far to try and catch up.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s slimmest lead of 8-7 in the first set was followed by a four-point swing served up by senior Madisyn Eggers and powered at the net by senior middle hitter Megan Cooley. A pair of potent quick sets resulted in Rebel points, Eggers tallied an ace and senior outside hitter Ava Wyatt terminated an errant Riceville pass.
G-R’s lead didn’t slip below three again the rest of the opening set, and a five-point run with senior libero Breehan Dubberke at the service line spelled the end for Riceville. Cooley’s fifth kill of the first set finished it off, 25-18, and the Rebels followed it up with a pair of six-point surges to take a commanding 14-3 lead in the second set.
“I think it was a little bit of everything — a little bit of nerves, our swings weren’t hitting where we wanted to, and our passes were all over the place,” Wyatt said of G-R’s slow start, “but once we got zoned in more we figured it out and did what we needed to do.”
Gladbrook-Reinbeck grabbed the match by the reins and drove Riceville into a devastating second-set defeat, 25-5. McClintock served up a 7-0 Rebel run to end the set, collecting one ace along the way while Wyatt dialed in her back-row attack. One of Jaden Hansen’s four kills provided the final point in emphatic fashion.
“We’re really good at building each other up,” Wyatt said. “We want everyone to do well and not just one or two girls, we want the whole team to be performing well, so when we can trust everybody and everyone has big swings it’s really big for our team.”
Riceville resisted the end of its season to start the third set, hanging within 6-5 before Wyatt served up eight straight points that included five aces for a 14-5 G-R lead. It was mostly back-and-forth from there, which was plenty to propel the Rebels into the regional finals once again.
Wyatt finished with a match-high 13 kills, freshman middle hitter Kennedy Brant had seven kills and Cooley finished with six kills. Hansen (4), McClintock (3) and sophomore right-side Lily Dripps (2) also contributed to a balanced attack. McClintock totaled 27 assists.
Cooley led the G-R defense with nine digs and one block. Wyatt had six digs and served 18-for-21 with seven aces, and McClintock had five digs. Dubberke served 11-for-12 with three aces as well in the seniors’ final home match.
“We had a moment where we realized this is another last,” Wyatt said. “We’ve been through this a lot, a lot of us have been doing this for a lot of years now so it’s pretty sad to be doing this for the last time, but I’m excited to keep going.”
The Rebels were set to face the No. 15 Dunkerton Raiders (23-14) Wednesday night at Cedar Falls High School for the Class 1A Region 5 Championship, the final step on the way to the state tournament.
The IGHSAU 2022 Volleyball State Tournament is set for October 31-November 3 in Coralville at the Xtream Arena. Class 1A quarterfinals are scheduled for 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 1.