CLINTON — Erin Wenzel sat in the front row of bleachers in Yourd Gymnasium, staring ahead blankly as the fans filtered out. The tears had come and gone. Occasionally she got up to hug a teammate, friend or well-wisher, but then it was back to the bench.
She seemed determined to be the last one to leave. She didn't want her volleyball career at Clinton to end, not like this.
For the second year in a row, Wenzel and her Clinton High teammates were dealt a heartbreaking end to their season. But, this time she was a senior, and the loss came on her home court.
"It's really tough, thinking that this is the last volleyball game we'll play in here and how much we love the game and how hard we tried tonight, and it just really sucks," she said. "All the great bonds that we made over the years, it's hard to think it's over."
Cedar Rapids Kennedy rallied from a 2-1 deficit to win games 4 and 5 on Thursday night and hand the River Queens a 22-25, 25-20, 23-25, 25-20, 15-11 defeat in a Class 5A Region 6 semifinal match.
"They came on hard," Clinton senior Hannah Dehner said. "They wanted it just as much as we did, and in the end that's what counted."
The Cougars (20-14), who have won six in a row, move on to face eighth-ranked Dubuque Hempstead on Tuesday in the regional final that will determine the state tournament qualifier. Hempstead swept crosstown rival Dubuque Senior 25-12, 25-9, 25-9.
"I'm really proud of us," Kennedy senior outside hitter Jayden Gilson said. "We just kept our momentum and played more as a team. We worked together better and hustled after every ball."
Kennedy setter Anna Fluent said: "We really wanted this game real bad. We want to move on to state. We played really well and kept our composure through all five games and didn't get down, even when we were down (in points)."