Comets fall to No. 5-ranked Hawks in volleyball regional final
By John Burbridge
MANCHESTER — The well-traveled Charles City student section was decked out in holiday attire for Monday’s Class 4A-Region 6 volleyball championship match.
For them, Christmas came early. But for the team they were rooting for — the Comets — the season had been extended a little longer than some people may have thought.
Emerging as the dark horse in the bracket, Charles City survived a five-set match against hosting Mason City in the first round before playing perhaps its best match of the season in a 3-1 semifinal win against Center Point-Urbana, which had received a quarterfinal bye.
But against No. 5-ranked and bracket top seed West Delaware, the Comets were stopped one match short of state as the hosting Hawks advanced with a straight-set victory (25-12, 25-16, 25-10).
For West Delaware, it was its 39th win of the season paired with just 5 losses. The Comets came into the final with a more modest record (19-25), though many of their losses came in bunches during highly competitive weekend tournaments during the regular season.
“Our record wasn’t going to help us in the seeding of the tournament,” Charles City head coach Maddie Fank said, “but it was going to help us play our best volleyball by the end of the season.
“We have a lot of underclass players on the team, and maybe we didn’t play with as much confidence as we should have. But those players now know what it takes when you get to the third level of the postseason, and that should help them when they get there again.”
The Hawks didn’t waste much time exerting their superior size and experience as a pair of resounding kills by Ava Hauser helped them attain a double-digit lead at 18-8 and 21-11 before taking the first set.
But the Comets seemed to be on the verge of becoming dangerous in the second set as a Jennifer Martin-to-Rachel Chambers kill tied the set at 3-3 before a blocking kill by Danielle Stock put Charles City up 7-4.
A kill by Hawk senior Macey Kleitsch put WD up 16-13. An ace by Martin closed the gap to 18-16, but the Hawks went on to score the final 7 points of the set, and then proceeded to score the first 6 points of the third set.
A kill by Chambers drew the Comets a little closer at 10-6, but a series of sinking service points by Allison Collier late in the set helped seal the sweep.
With seniors Martin, Priscilla Arenas, Haley Larson, Lexi Vance, Alex Litterer and Desirae Davis graduating from the Comets, Fank believes that many of the returners may develop into more effective players depending on how well they work on their games during the offseason as well as “finding themselves” when it comes to their most optimal roles on the floor.
“We have some players who flip back and forth with their positions,” Fank said. “We need to identify what works best for them.”