LINCOLN – Momentum could have turned in Superior’s favor entering the fifth set.
Instead, Grand Island Central Catholic took it back right away and rolled with it into the Class C-2 finals.
After the No. 1 Wildcats rallied from a 2-0 set deficit to force a fifth, the No. 3 Crusaders got out to a 10-3 lead and went on to a hard-fought 25-23, 26-24, 22-25, 23-25, 15-7 win Friday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The win puts the Crusaders into the state championship match for the 19th time in school history. GICC will face No. 2 Hastings St. Cecilia at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
GICC setter Katie Maser, who dished out 49 assists, said she was confident in the Crusaders’ abilities to finish it out even after the Wildcats forced a fifth.
“I knew the team would come back and get it done,” she said. “That was a good team we played.”
In a match that was filled with numerous momentum swings, it was the Crusaders’ serving in the fifth that was the difference. Lauryn Willman and Gracie Woods got the run started with three ace serves for the 10-3 lead. It got up to 12-4 and Woods hammered down her team-high 20th kill to send GICC into the finals.
“The thing we talk about is getting runs from our servers and if we can get two or three points out of our servers,” GICC coach Sharon Zavala said. “Some of our subs that we used were able to get a point and that’s big.”
The serving also helped the Crusaders in the first two sets. Willman did most of the damage with 25 points and six ace serves along with 25 digs. A Woods kill broke a 23-all tie in the first before Willman ended it with an ace serve. Then she served a 6-0 run with two more ace serves that turned a 24-20 deficit into a second-set win and a 2-0 lead.
“Lauryn came through for us when we needed her to,” Maser said. “She served great for us.”
Zavala said: “I told the kids during those timeouts that they are known for coming back. You just plant that in their heads.”
Superior coach Kelsie Blevins said serve receive was an issue for the Wildcats, especially at the end of the second set and most of the fifth.
“Our serve receive was weak in key moments but that’s a credit to GICC’s serving,” she said.
But behind the play of the Nebraska recruit Kalynn Meyer and younger sister, Shayla, the Wildcats were able to hold off the Crusaders in the next two sets to force a fifth. Kalynn led all attackers with 26 kills and four blocks, while Shayla had 21. The two combined for 24 kills in the third and fourth sets.
Blevins said the Meyer sisters made the plays for them. She added that the loss stings but was happy with how Superior fought back after being down 2-0 in the match.
“They stepped up for us when we needed a big play,” Blevins said. “They are great leaders on the floor.
“(The loss) hurts because our dream is gone but then again, the girls could have gotten beat in three. The girls showed incredible heart in coming back to force the fifth.”
Sisters Avery and Allison Kalvoda added 18 and 11 kills respectively for the Crusaders. Kate McFarland led the defense with 28 digs.
The C-2 final will feature two teams with a rich tradition of volleyball success. GICC has nine state titles and nine runner-up finishes, while St. Cecilia has seven championships and two runner-ups.
The Crusaders hope the fourth time against the Hawkettes is the charm. GICC has lost in the previous three meetings, including a five-set loss in the C2-9 subdistrict final.
“They are a very good team with some strong and athletic girls,” Zavala said. “They are very competitive. Hopefully we’ll have some legs tomorrow.”
Maser, who committed to play volleyball for Creighton, said winning a state championship would be a great way for her and her teammates to end the season.
“That would be the best feeling ever,” Maser said. “That would be a dream come true.”