A resilient effort helped Grand Island Central Catholic flip the momentum, and once the Crusaders did, they were off and rolling.
Fighting off two set points in a critical second set, outside hitter Megan Woods hammered down her ninth kill of the frame, closing out a wild 29-27 Crusaders win.
It would be all third-ranked Grand Island Central Catholic moving forward as the Crusaders (33-2) advanced to their first championship match since 2010 with a 17-25, 29-27, 25-20, 25-22 win over No. 5 Lincoln Lutheran in the C-1 semifinals of the state volleyball tournament Friday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
“Winning that second set was probably the most important part of the game,” Woods said. “Getting down 0-2 is really hard to come back from. Once we won that set, we had the momentum for the third set.”
It took awhile for the Crusaders to grab any momentum. Lincoln Lutheran breezed through the first set behind the strong right arm of sophomore Marriah Buss.
Buss had eight kills in the opening frame, on her way to 34 for the match, before Grand Island Central Catholic’s block started to become effective.
A Woods’ kill and block on back-to-back points in the third set broke a 19-all tie. Her ace serve moments later would close out the set.
Seldom-used sophomore Elli Steenson came up huge in the fourth set with an ace block of Buss to give the Crusaders a 20-18 lead. Another sophomore, Lauryn Willman, delivered a key ace serve to make it 22-19.
Kills by Allison Kalvoda and Avery Kalvoda ended the match and set off a raucous celebration from the Crusaders and their fans.
Crusaders coach Sharon Zavala tipped her cap to her sophomore subs, who came up big late.
“Oh, my gosh! They made some big plays, and they were both sophomores,” Zavala said. “Elli comes in and gets an ace block, and Lauryn Willman gets a huge ace serve. They kind of put them (Lincoln Lutheran) on their heels.”
Woods finished the match with 22 kills. Middle hitter Kamryn Willman joined Woods in double figures with 11. Sophomore setter Katie Maser put up 43 assists — her second straight day of 40-plus set assists.
Warriors coach Sue Ziegler said the high-drama second set was a key moment in the match.
“You never know, you can’t predict, but if you can get up 2-0 you sure do have an advantage. Talk about a roller coaster of emotions. We had it, then we didn’t.
“You can’t ever take anything for granted. You have to push and play to the end. That’s a great team in GICC.”