Xavier and Iowa City West Pick up Big Wins on the Volleyball court

CEDAR RAPIDS – Before the season, the Cedar Rapids Xavier volleyball team kept to the custom most teams have in setting goals for the year.

Last night against Cedar Rapids Prairie, the Class 4A No. 4 Saints (24-8, 5-0 MVC Valley) were able to cross one off their list with a 3-0 (25-23, 25-15, 25-19) victory, clinching at least a share of the Mississippi Valley Conference Valley Division title.

"It feels good. The girls worked really hard all summer and all year," said Xavier Coach Krista Johnson. "That was a goal of most of the girls, to win the conference. That was one of the top goals for us."

Junior Kayla Torson was all smiles after the match, celebrating both the matching of a benchmark for the season, as well as senior night for some of her teammates.

Torson echoed her coach when asked about the back-to-back division triumphs.

"I think it's really important," Torson said. "Last year was the first year we actually won the division, so doing it again is awesome. It's always awesome to win something."

Though Xavier has had a strong season – their only losses in the last month coming to Class 5A No. 3 Dubuque Hempstead – it's also come with some ups and downs within each match.

Earlier in the season, Johnson said she wanted to see her team keep its composure a little better set to set, and not allow opposing teams' success affect how they play.

But in a fairly dominant three-set sweep of Prairie (15-13, 3-3), Johnson said she saw what she wanted to see from her team.

"We do a better job of not letting teams get runs on us, which really shows that we can regroup," Johnson said. "Especially after their (Prairie) middles got kills, we stayed focused and realized people will get kills and we have to move on quick."

In addition to the focus they've worked on, the Saints were led past the Hawks primarily on the strength of their outside hitting. That's where Torson comes in, who came into the match against Prairie leading Xavier with 280 kills this season.

The junior couldn't be stopped in the early going last night, registering kills on five of the first six points for the Saints.

Johnson said Torson is very self-motivated, so a start like that isn't a product of being fired up pregame or from a pep talk.

But big kills and a fast start certainly have a ripple effect on the other five girls on the court.

"She just fights to get better every time she plays and to help the team. She always starts out up," Johnson said. "They definitely feed off it. We like to play high energy, and when the girls are having fun, that's when we do the best."

With just one more regular season match before the regional playoffs begin at the end of October, Johnson said there aren't major issues to fix.

"They're not going to improve leaps and bounds in the next two weeks," Johnson said. "It's just fine tuning and staying disciplined."

Though one of the goals has been reached, at least in part – Xavier can still earn sole possession of the division crown – the team isn't about to call it a season.

There's still another big goal left out there, and if the Saints can complete that fine tuning, they believe it's in reach.

"I definitely think we can get pretty close to taking a state championship," Torson said. "We have all the right stuff, we just need to work at it and keep getting better."
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