Prep Volleyball: West Branch Off To State For First Time
By Jeff Linder, Reporter
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Just call them the Breakthrough Bears.
Fourth-ranked West Branch capitalized on some error-filled play by Durant and swept the Wildcats, 25-12, 25-16, 25-17, in a Class 2A volleyball regional final Wednesday night at Regina High School.
"We just made history," Heather Poula proclaimed.
The Bears (36-4) advance to the state volleyball tournament for the first time. In fact, West Branch hadn't been to a state tournament in a major girls' sport (basketball, softball or volleyball) since the 1970s.
They'll hit the big stage Thursday, Nov. 8 at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena, against No. 5 Council Bluffs St. Albert (28-10) in a state quarterfinal. Match time has not been released.
"This is like a dream come true," said a somewhat emotional Kelley Trimble. "We've been so close before."
The Bears lost in the regional finals in 2009 and 2010, then bashed the proverbial door down Wednesday.
You could make the argument that Durant (21-12) left the door ajar. The Wildcats were sloppy at the start, surrendering 10 hitting errors and a pair of service miscues in the opening game.
Durant's final hitting efficiency for the match was minus-.029.
West Branch did not trail in either of the first two sets. The Bears seized immediate control in Game 1, scoring eight of the first nine points.
In the second game, the Bears scored the first eight points before Durant made their only real push of the night and knotted it at 12-12. West Branch led 15-14 before closing with 10 of the last 12 points.
Durant held three slim leads in the final game, the last one at 9-8. Ashley Finnegan had a pair of kills in a five-point surge that put West Branch in front for good, 13-9.
From there, it was a matter of counting down points before the Bears made history.
"The girls deserve this," said Bears Coach Josh Lukavsky, who won his 100th match in three years at West Branch. "They've worked very hard to get to this moment."
Poula said, "I'm so glad to be a part of this. We didn't take this match for granted."
The Bears more than doubled Durant's kill output (38-17). Poula collected 14 kills, nine assists and three blocks. Finnegan added nine kills, Kelli Vaughan counted 20 assists and Trimble posted six kills and four aces.
WEST BRANCH 3, DURANT 0
Game 1 2 3
Durant (21-12) 12 16 17
West Branch (36-4) 25 25 25
Serving: Durant 43-47 (.915), West Branch 70-73 (.959)
Aces: Durant 5 (Sidney Lilienthal 2), West Branch 7 (Kelley Trimble 4)
Kills: Durant 17 (Lilienthal 5), West Branch 38 (Heather Poula 14)
Assists: Durant 15 (Jaclyn Ralfs 10), West Branch 34 (Kelli Vaughan 20)
Blocks: Durant 3 (Lilienthal 2), West Branch 7 (Poula 3)
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