By Kurt Ritzman
Assistant Sports Editor
Maquoketa seemed destined to clinch a berth in the volleyball state tournament for a second consecutive year Tuesday night.
After overcoming an eight-point deficit to win Game 3 29-27 over North Scott and take a 2-1 lead in the match, the Cardinals were on the verge of winning Game 4.
Maquoketa led 13-11, then got back-to-back kills by Devon O’Connell, followed by back-to-back combined blocks from O’Connell and Allison Vandemore to go ahead 17-11.
But the Cardinals (31-7) couldn’t finish it off. North Scott rallied for a 22-25, 25-23, 27-29, 25-23, 15-12 victory in a Class 4A regional final.
The Lancers (27-5, ranked fifth in Class 4A) face Waverly-Shell Rock in the first round of the state tournament in Cedar Rapids. Waverly-Shell Rock beat Maquoketa in the first round of the state tournament last year in Class 3A before the state expanded from four classes to five.
Neither coach thought the Cardinals, ranked seventh, and North Scott should be meeting before the state tournament, though.
“I truly believe both of these teams deserve to be at the Ice Arena next week,” Maquoketa coach Jill Schawl said. “It was a very unfortunate final because I think there’s going to be other teams in 4A that aren’t near as good as either one of us.
“I don’t want anyone to think I’m saying they’re not any good. It was just a really unfortunate region; geography ruled. Take West Delaware (which beat Dubuque Wahlert on Tuesday to advance to the state tournament), we beat them three times this year. That’s just what happened.”
Making it tougher, the Cardinals seemed so close.
Maquoketa extended its lead in Game 4 to 20-15, forcing North Scott coach Amy Schubert to call a timeout.
“Everybody was glossy-eyed and on the verge of tears, like, ’Are we really going to go out like this?’ ” Schubert said. “I said, ‘This is the time where the team with the most heart wins.’ We’ve worked really hard all year. That kind of flipped a switch for them that they didn’t want it to be over. After that timeout, they really picked things up.”
The teams traded the next two points and then Sydney Rollinger went back to serve for North Scott with the Lancers trailing 21-17.
“They had a very good server at the line,” Schawl said. “We had too difficult of a time siding her out. She rattled off five points against us. I think in the back of my kids’ minds, they thought it would work out. Not that they were overconfident, but I think they felt that was our set and we were going to win. Give credit to North Scott. They didn’t give up. They could have easily given up.”
Rollinger’s run included an ace and two kills by Emily Hermiston, who had a match-high 20. That run gave North Scott the lead, and Maquoketa could not regain control of the game.
“We thought we had them in the fourth set, and they ended up winning,” Schawl said. “They obviously have a great team and had a lot of guts to be able to come back.”
The Cardinals scored the first two points of Game 5 on a kill by Vandemore and another combined block from Vandemore and O’Connell. North Scott tied the game and Maquoketa pulled back ahead. That continued with ties at 2, 4, 7, 9 and 10.
“When Allison Vandemore came in, it was 10-10,” Schawl said. “I thought, ‘Here’s a really good chance for us.’ We weren’t able to score the amount of points we needed to when she was in the front row. In a game to 15, things move really quickly. We were not able to keep Devon and Allison active in the front row long enough. We weren’t pushing points in those cycles long enough. When you get to 12-12 and your No. 3 and No. 4 hitters are your front-row players, it’s tough.”
Vandemore and Erin Mead traded kills, twice, to add ties at 11 and 12. Then North Scott reeled off the final three points — taking its first lead of the game — to punch its first ticket to the state tournament in 27 years and end the Cardinals’ dreams of a second consecutive berth and second trip in school history.
“It’s tough,” Schawl said. “They’re a mess. But, we do have a green banner hanging on our wall. They were a part of that — the first team ever to get to the state tournament. Nobody can ever take that away from them. That green banner will hang on that wall forever. I tried to stress to them that tonight would have been icing on the cake for their careers. They accomplished a lot. They’re not leaving empty-handed.”
Maquoketa took control of the match early and never trailed in Game 1. The Cardinals got seven blocks in the first game, including solo blocks from Vandemore, O’Connell, Erica Sutton and Sarah Kinrade. Maquoketa finished with 19 total team blocks (seven solos, 12 combined), led by Vandemore’s 11 and O’Connell’s eight.
Schawl said having the opportunity to watch film on North Scott and do some scouting over the past couple of weeks was important to the blocking success.
“We’re not the best blocking team, but tonight we had a good beat on what they were going to do,” she said. “We had a lot of nice blocks and touches.”
North Scott controlled Game 2 much the same way the Cardinals did Game 1, and carried that momentum into Game 3. Maquoketa trailed 17-9 a little less than halfway through the game, when the momentum swing began.
“The third set for them and the fourth set for us are probably a wash,” Schawl said. “They technically should have won that third set. Both teams obviously wanted it super bad. Playing from behind, maybe for both teams, was more motivation.”
Maquoketa fought back to 21-18 with a 9-4 run keyed by two blocks and two kills each by Vandemore and Aubree Taylor. Then Marlee Lindstrom stepped back to serve and fired off an ace.
On the next point, the Lancers drilled an attack at Lindstrom, who did a backbend out of the way. The hit went just long for an error. O’Connell and Vandemore combined on a block to tie the game at 21.
The teams split the next four points, and then an O’Connell kill gave the Cardinals the first game point. North Scott had the next two game points, losing one on an error and one on a Taylor kill to tie the score at 26. Each team scored one of the next two points to tie the game at 27. Then Maquoketa took advantage of back-to-back Lancers errors to win the game.
“I’m glad we gave everything that we had,” Schawl said. “We played tremendously well. This is going to hurt for a while, but the sun will come up tomorrow.”
The loss marks the end of the high school volleyball careers of the eight seniors on Maquoketa’s roster.
“They’ve put Maquoketa volleyball on the map,” Schawl said. “These kids were in seventh grade when I became the head coach. Obviously it wasn’t much of a program. I really tried to work with the younger kids, the lower level. This is my first group. I coached them in club. They stuck with it and they’ve been great role models for the younger kids. ... They bought into being a program instead of a one- or two-year team.”
NORTH SCOTT 22-25-27-25-15, MAQUOKETA 25-23-29-23-12
Kills — North Scott (Emily Hermiston 20, Erin Mead 18, Ashley Schabilion 15, Morgan Schabilion 9); Maquoketa (Devon O’Connell 15, Allison Vandemore 13, Aubree Taylor 11, Erica Sutton 7, Marlee Lindstrom 6). Assists — North Scott (Hannah Lindaman 57, Sydney Rollinger 4); Maquoketa (Lindstrom 41, Nicole Snyder 4). Ace serves — North Scott (M. Schabilion 2, Mead 1, A. Schabilion 1, Rollinger 1); Maquoketa (Lindstrom 3, Taylor 1). Blocks — North Scott (M. Schabilion 5, A. Schabilion 5, Mead 4, Hermiston 3); Maquoketa (Vandemore 11, O’Connell 8, Taylor 4, Sarah Kinrade 4, Lindstrom 3). Digs — Maquoketa (Snyder 39, Lindstrom 33).