No. 2 Hastings St. Cecilia could do no wrong in the C-2 semifinals as the No. 2 Hawkettes steamrolled No. 4 Lutheran Northeast 25-19, 25-11, 25-16 on Friday to advance to their first state championship match since 2015.
“Our kids have worked so hard for this," St Cecilia coach Allan VanCura said. "Way back in May we felt like we could have a good season but maybe not be in a state championship game with our schedule, but we’ve gotten a lot better since the start of the year.”
Coming into the match, one of the major factors was the Hawkettes' ability to slow the Northeast offense, a unit led by standout outside hitter Rebecca Gebhardt. Gebhardt, who finished with a game-high 27 kills in a quarterfinal win against Bishop Neumann, still managed 17 kills, but the rest of the Eagle offense was relatively quiet.
“I thought our defense played well,” VanCura said. “We knew Gebhardt was going to get her kills but we also got some stuffs on her. We’ve always talked about how it’s hard for one player to beat a team and if we take care of everybody else, we’re going to be fine.”
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With as dominant as St. Cecilia was, it was a back-and-forth affair to begin the match as the Hawkettes held a slim 8-7 lead. Katharine Hamburger and the St. Cecilia offense then started to take over as a 10-4 run would put the Hawkettes up 18-11.
Northeast wouldn’t back down, putting together a 6-1 run of its own to cut the deficit to 20-17. However, a few ace serves would shut the door on the Eagles as St. Cecilia won set one 25-19.
With as close as parts of set one were, the second set wasn’t even close. Fueled by a balanced offense and effective serving, the Hawkettes exploded for to an 18-5 lead, seemingly putting the set away. An ace serve and two more kills for Hamburger clinched the set for St. Cecilia, 25-11.
Thing would be a little closer in the third set, but runs of 10-1 and 6-1 from the Hawkettes completed the sweep in a 25-16 win in the third set.
Even with all the experience the team brings, it will be the first state championship appearance for everyone on the St. Cecilia roster, but VanCura isn’t too concerned.
“We just want to continue doing what we’ve done for the past two days. Play our brand of volleyball and it all starts with serving. That’s been key for us so far and we are hoping it stays that same way tomorrow.”