WEBSTER CITY - No. 5 South Central Calhoun appeared to be in prime position for its first state volleyball tournament bid as a combined program on Wednesday night.
In the end, though, ninth-ranked Grundy Center refused to be denied.
Despite jumping out to a commanding 2-0 lead, the Titans (38-5 overall) were ousted in five games in a Class 2A, Region 5 final.
Photo by Troy Banning, for The Messenger
South Central Calhoun’s Ashley Henkenius dives for the ball during a Class 2A regional final against Grundy Center on Wednesday in Webster City. For more photos, please visit CU at www.messengernews.net
Scores were 21-25, 20-25, 25-15, 25-23 and 15-10 in favor of the Spartans.
"This was a tough way to go out, but when you play a team like Grundy Center, you have to attack, attack, attack," said SCC head coach Wade Voith, who previously directed Southern Cal to the 1A state quarterfinals in both 2007 and 2009. "Somewhere in that third game we lost a little of our aggressiveness. I honestly thought we played so much better than (the Spartans) at the end of the fourth game and had a little bit of momentum.
"Once they scored the first three points in the fifth, I knew it would be an uphill battle."
Unable to climb out of an early hole in the finale, South Central Calhoun watched defending 1A state runner-up Grundy Center reel off a mini 3-0 run to secure the victory. Down 12-6, the Titans briefly sliced the deficit to just two before the Spartans answered right back.
"We are a team that will make errors when we're playing aggressively," Voith said. "I think the uncharacteristic thing was the times in the matches when we made those errors."
Behind a late 8-4 burst, SCC prevailed in Game 1. All knotted at 13 in the second set, the Titans pulled away by reeling off eight of the next nine points.
South Central Calhoun, which never led in the third or fourth games, briefly tied Grundy Center at 23-23 in the fourth behind consecutive kills from juniors Maggie Anderson and Kori Assman. The Spartans then benefited from a Katie Lindeman kill and a Titan hitting error to even the match.
"We knew we had to slow No. 9 (Stephanie Faust) down, but I don't know what the difference was as the match went on," said Voith. "It seemed like she was just hitting (the ball) in better positions."
Seniors Ashley Henkenius, Abby Collison, Kellsie Knapp, Jessi Schultz, Darci Legore and Leah Spyker all wrapped up their volleyball careers for two-time reigning Twin Lakes Conference champion South Central Calhoun, which saw its nine-match winning streak halted.
"This might be my favorite senior class I've ever had," Voith said. "They probably aren't the most talented bunch, but they've been an awesome group to coach. I couldn't ask for anything better."
Anderson (16-for-17 serving, four aces,16 digs and 14 kills) and juniors Hannah Corey (22 of 23 on serves, four aces, 15 kills and 14 digs), Tyffaney Toms (13-for-17 serving, two aces, 12 kills and 11 digs) and Haley Birks (12 of 17 on serves, 14 digs, five kills and five blocks) were the top performers for the Titans.
Making its fourth straight state trip, Grundy Center (29-8) will now face No. 2 Western Christian (43-2) in a 2A quarterfinal Wednesday at 2 p.m. on Court 2 at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids. The Wolfpack, who placed second at state the last two years, advanced with a sweep of Lake Mills, 25-11, 25-13 and 25-16.