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Kirkwood denies No. 8 Tritons bid to nationals

—Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Iowa Central’s Abbie Stewart tips the ball over Kirkwood’s Taylor Carey during the Region XI-A Tournament inside Hodges Fieldhouse. For more photos, visit CU at messengernews.net

The venue was slightly different, but the end result was the same for the Iowa Central volleyball team Sunday.

After claiming the ICCAC regular season title and No. 1 seed in the Region XI-A Tournament, the Tritons were upset by Kirkwood inside Hodges Fieldhouse in four.

Scores were 25-23, 20-25, 25-21 and 26-24.

Last year, the Eagles (25-14 overall) pulled the same stunner, ousting Iowa Central (33-6). That regional tournament took place at St. Edmond High School due to a scheduling conflict.

Kirkwood will now advance to the North Central district championship this Saturday for a spot in the NJCAA Div. II National Tournament. They will face Metropolitan in Missouri.

With the loss by the Tritons, Northeast claimed the automatic bid to nationals after defeating No. 2 seed North Iowa Area in five, 23-25, 25-18, 25-19, 20-25 and 15-13.

“We tried not to think about it being a case of deja vu, but it definitely felt that way,” ICCC head coach Sara Horn said. “We knew Kirkwood was a good team and they played a really great match. I thought we played well too and it was really just a good match between two teams.

“In the end, we did a few things that I haven’t seen us do in critical situations this year. Maybe that was the pressure that came with it because this was a very pressure-filled match.”

Amaya Finley, who earlier this year became the program leader in kills, led the way with 22. She also had 19 digs in her final match as a Triton.

Kealey Anderson, a freshman, added 18 kills and 22 digs with three block assists. Karolayne Santos chipped in six kills, Easton Swanson had four, Haley Alharithy three and Abbie Stewart two.

Taylor Bienemann recorded 27 digs and Alesha Johnson had nine with 25 assists. Katie Godfredsen had 19 assists and 12 digs on the day.

Santos, Stewart and Alharithy all had one solo block each.

“We just didn’t really find a lot of consistency out on the court or get in a good rhythm,” Horn said. “I thought that Kirkwood did a nice job of taking things away from us.”

The fourth set featured an early lead by the Eagles, as they tallied eight of the first 11 points. Iowa Central clawed its way back, tying it at 16-all, 20-all and 23-all before taking set-point at 24-23.

Kirkwood, though, received a block from freshman Aubrin Dittmer and a kill by Dittmer to end the match and secure the regional crown for a second consecutive year.

Dittmer had 11 kills on the day with Anna Gorsich adding 14 and Taylor Carey eight. The Eagles were the only league team to defeat Iowa Central this year, scoring a five-set victory during the regular season in Cedar Rapids.

For the Tritons, this was the final match for sophomores Finley, Bienemann, Santos, Godfredsen, Stewart, Olivia Wilson, Delaney Spinks, Shay Karmazyn, Emily Tufts, Sydni George, Darlynn Okinaka, Taylor Light and Hannah Huss.

“They were an incredible group of players that came from all different parts of the country and from diverse backgrounds,” Horn said. “They came together and really bonded as a team. This was one of the most successful two-year runs in Iowa Central history and they were a big part of it all.”

Finley and Anderson were both named to the all-region tournament team for their efforts.

The national tournament takes place Nov. 21-23 in West Virginia.