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Jefferson Volleyball Survives Linn-Mar's Last Stand

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MARION, Iowa The world seemed to be crumbling around the Jefferson J-Hawks.

They had blown an eight-point lead late in the third set and squandered a couple of match points in the fourth.

"You know, we could have thought, 'OK, this is as good as it's going to get. We gave it a good shot,' " said Coach Mary Kay Van Oort. "But I honestly don't think the thought crossed our minds."

Not with Amanda Ollinger in the front row.

Ollinger delivered the final two of her kills on the final two points of the match, rescuing the J-Hawks to a four-set win (25-21, 25-19, 23-25, 26-24) in a Class 5A regional quarterfinal volleyball match Monday night at Linn-Mar High School.

"I really don't know what to say," said J-Hawks setter Kaylie Zitek. "This has become a family. We've become closer. We believe in ourselves, and it's an awesome feeling."

A team that won only four matches last year, Jefferson (18-21) advances to face Iowa City West in a regional semifinal Thursday at West. The Women of Troy (26-9) drew a first-round bye.

Van Oort came aboard after last season. One of her first hard decisions was to move Ollinger a talented, hard-swinging 6-foot-1 sophomore from the middle to the outside.

"I was a middle, and I love the middle because that's where the action is," Van Oort said. "But I realized that, at the high school level, you get more sets to the outside. And we needed to get Amanda more sets."

The transition "was a little tough at first," Ollinger said. "But I've learned a lot, and I still have a lot to learn. I just want to make the most of it here and be the best player I can be."

Jefferson was the team with the answers at the end of the first two games, emerging from a 20-20 deadlock in the first set (Ollinger scored three straight J-Hawks points with two kills in a block) and tallying the final seven points of Game 2 to erase a 19-18 disadvantage.

The J-Hawks were poised for a sweep, leading the third game, 21-13, before the Lions (23-15) awakened.

Linn-Mar concluded the set with a 12-2 run, capped by Audra Schminke's ace. You figured the momentum had shifted. But Van Oort looked at her players' faces at the beginning of Game 4, and saw resolve.

"You could see it in their eyes," Van Oort said. "They weren't giving up. I'm so proud of them. They really do believe they can win now."

Jefferson raced to a 6-1 lead in the fourth set and controlled play through most of it. They led, 22-18, before Linn-Mar made a final flurry. Sami Boekhoff slammed three kills as the Lions rallied, erased two match points and got even at 24-24. That set the stage for Ollinger's final daggers.

"They were the team that deserved to move on," said Linn-Mar Coach Teresa Kehe. "They were the team that showed up tonight. They had better ball control and they saw the floor better."

Boekhoff collected 13 kills for the Lions. Aryn Jones added 10.

Zitek collected 28 assists, the majority to Ollinger. Front row, back row ... Ollinger was a threat wherever she received a set.

"We can always go to her," Zitek said. "She's always on fire. Everywhere."

Game 1 2 3 4
Cedar Rapids Jefferson (18-21) 25 25 23 26
Linn-Mar (23-15) 21 19 25 24

Serving: Jefferson 88-99 (.889), Linn-Mar 83-90 (.922)

Aces: Jefferson 8 (Keke Pledge 3), Linn-Mar 4 (four with 1)

Kills: Jefferson 43 (Amanda Ollinger 25), Linn-Mar 45 (Sami Boekhoff 13)

Assists: Jefferson 41 (Kaylie Zitek 28), Linn-Mar 40 (Ellie Anderson 19)

Blocks: Jefferson 10 (Cierra Maas 4), Linn-Mar 9 (Sarah Renner 4)