Prep Volleyball: City High Gets Late Boost To Beat West In Five Sets

By Jeff Linder, Reporter

Iowa City High's Rachel Rinehart blocks a hit by Laynie Whitehead of Iowa City West during a Class 5A regional volleyball match at Iowa City High in Iowa City on Wednesday, October 24, 2012. (Cliff Jette/The Gazett

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By Chelsi McDonald

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Five-hour energy? Iowa City High just needed five minutes at the end.

The fourth-ranked Little Hawks made the critical plays in the final moments and outlasted Iowa City West in a grueling five-set Class 5A regional semifinal volleyball match Thursday night at City High School.

Scores were 24-26, 25-15, 22-25, 25-21 and 15-12.

“We didn’t want this season to end,” said City’s Abby Saehler, whose 21 kills led all attackers. “We kept coming back and kept coming back.”

City High (28-8) advances to face Burlington (5-19) in a regional final Tuesday at West. Most likely, it will be anticlimatic after all the twists and turns the Little Hawks maneuvered Thursday.

The Little Hawks were in a bit of a bind in Game 4, trailing 12-8. And they were down 11-9 in the deciding set before scoring six of the last seven points.

“Every play was huge,” said City Coach Craig Pitcher. “We just hunkered down and made plays at the end. We just had a five-minute jolt of energy that got us through.”

This had been West’s town (and state) recently. The Women of Troy were state champions in 2010 and 2011, beating the Little Hawks in five games for last year’s title, and they swept City High for The Spike earlier this season.

West got The Spike. City earned survival.

The reign ended Thursday.

“(City) had an offense tonight,” said West Coach Kathy Bresnahan, whose team retired at 20-17. “They didn’t have an offense last time we played them.”

Nor did they have Michaela Nelson. They did Thursday though, and she had six of her 16 kills in the final set.

“They’d beaten us six straight times, and it’s good to get back into it and get back on top,” Nelson said. “It didn’t cross my mind that we might lose, but we knew we had to pick it up, and we knew we didn’t want to be done.”

Trailing 11-9 in the fifth, the Little Hawks rallied with three straight points — a kill by Nelson, another by Saehler and a West net violation — for a 12-11 advantage. Mollie Mason got the Women of Troy even at 12-all with a kill, but Saehler had another kill and setter Ruth Grace recorded a block to get the Little Hawks to the brink.

A ball-handling error on the Women of Troy ended it.

West had an opportunity in Game 4, standing even at 19-all. But City High scored five straight points to set the stage for a final, deciding set.

“We went to the locker room (after the fourth game), and we were jumping and screaming,” Saehler said. “We said, ‘We’re not going home. This is our game, our house, our match.’ ”

In last year’s final, serving undid the Little Hawks at the end. Thursday, they missed only two serves all night and recorded nine aces. Mickey Hansche converted all 28 of her attempts with four aces.

Grace collected 60 assists for the winners. Mason paced West with 15 kills.

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