Fifth ranked Pella fought hard all the way to the finish but fell in five games to fourth ranked Sioux City Heelan in the opening round of the Class 3A State Volleyball Tournament last night at the US Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.
Heelan won the first set 25-20 but Pella pulled out a close, hard fought second set 25-23 to even the match. Heelan re gained the advantage with a 25-16 win in game three, but again Pella answered back winning 25-23 in game four to send it to a decisive fifth set. Heelan built up an 11-4 lead on their way to a 15-8 win to move on to Friday’s semifinal round.
In the third set down 10-8, Pella scored three straight points to pull ahead 11-10 forcing Heelan to call timeout. The Crusaders then went on a 9-0 run and Pella coach Bob Fessler called timeout and challenged his girls to stay strong. “I just really knew we were in trouble at that point so I challenged the girls at that time that they still had something to say about the outcome of this match. Even if they (Heelan) wins this set, we’re only down 2-1 and we needed to change momentum. I felt we did that at the end of game three and carried that into game four, but we just ran out of gas in that fifth game. Credit Heelan, they didn’t back off and were aggressive in game five and we just got a little passive”
With the loss, 10 seniors ended their high school volleyball careers. This group of seniors has amassed a 76-12 record over the past two seasons and Fessler says they have a lot to be proud of. “They have given their heart and soul to our school and our community. What an awesome group and what a two year run they’ve had. There’s four of these girls that have played here (US Cellular Center) all four years of their high school careers and that’s awesome. Any time your season ends here in Cedar Rapids, it’s been a great season. Yes, we wanted to win this match and play again Friday, but we’re definitely not walking out of here with our heads down”
Hali Steenhoek and Lindsay Bentzinger led Pella with 18 and 10 kills respectively, Brooke Fessler dished out 39 assists, MaKenzie VanderMolen had 25 digs while Bentzinger had 19 and Kelsi Rempe had 15 digs. Pella ends their season 38-6 overall and was making their fifth straight appearance in the state volleyball tournament.