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Kaz Brown Carries Cedar Falls to First MVC Volleyball Title

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CEDAR FALLS, Iowa Kaz Brown had explosive actions.

And reactions.

A highly talented, highly emotional middle hitter, Brown carried Class 5A ninth-ranked Cedar Falls to its first Mississippi Valley Conference volleyball tournament championship Saturday. The Tigers handled Iowa City West, 25-19, 25-19, in the final match.

"Volleyball is just, it's even more a mental game than a physical game," said Brown, a 6-foot-3 senior bound for the University of Kentucky. "Emotion and momentum can take you so far. We really stressed today, we've got to be that team that's loud and excited."

Brown posted 12 kills and five blocks in the championship match. All were punctuated with fist pumps and screams. One block, in the midst of a second-set surge, was followed by a drop to the knees.

"I think we let her attitude get to us more than anything," said West Coach Kathy Bresnahan.

Cedar Falls (29-8) breezed through pool play, then met its stiffest challenge of the day in the quarterfinals before outlasting 4A No. 4 Cedar Rapids Xavier, 25-10, 21-25, 15-13. The Tigers then swept 5A No. 3 Dubuque Hempstead before taking down the Women of Troy.

"I don't think many people would have picked us and them in the finals," Bresnahan said.

For West (25-9), the day had the makings of disaster before the first match. Laynie Whitehead landed on a ball during pregame warmups and sprained her right ankle.

"I thought I was done for," she said. "But the trainer taped it, and said I could play. It's going to be really sore tomorrow."

Whitehead, a junior who has committed to Northeastern University, played sparingly during pool play, but was effective during bracket action. The hitting/setting dual threat had seven kills and 10 assists against Cedar Falls.

But it wasn't enough. The Tigers controlled the first set, then rallied from a 13-8 deficit in the second. They scored eight of the final nine points to erase an 18-17 disadvantage.

Cedar Rapids Kennedy was the last Metro team standing, enduring three-set matches on three occasions. The last was a 22-25, 25-16, 15-13 loss to West in the semifinals.

Coach Michelle Goodall was forced to juggle her lineup after outside hitter Erin Coker left the team earlier in the week.

"Considering everything, I couldn't be (more proud)," she said. "The kids are working hard on their mental game for the (regional tournament)."

Kennedy (17-14) won its pool with a 2-1 mark, then outlasted Iowa City High in the quarterfinals, rallying from a 7-1 deficit to win Game 3, 17-15.

The Cougars led West, 11-10, in the third set of the semifinal match before the Women of Troy prevailed.

Kennedy was one of four Metro teams to advance to the championship bracket. Xavier, Washington and Jefferson were beaten in the quarterfinals.

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