By Bret Hayworth
CORALVILLE, Iowa – A growing Ankeny Christian Academy volleyball squad took a huge step this week in the Class 1A state tournament, not only knocking off the No. 1 seed in the Wednesday semi final match, but then taking the title Thursday after fending off opponent match points in both the third and fourth sets.
The Gladbrook-Reinbeck Rebels seniors had a combined 124 wins over four years, but couldn’t pull off the ultimate achievement of being state champions when they were at the doorway two sets in a row. The ACA Eagles won 3-2, with the set scores at 21-25, 19-25, 28-26, 26-24 and 15-10.
Ankeny Christian was younger and shorter than G-R, and was making a first-ever state tourney appearance. Ankeny Christian (39-3) was also loaded with sophomores, but they seemed to grow up as the championship match became extended.
“Keep giving it everything you’ve got.. Believe it, believe it,” ACA head coach Michele Quick told her team during the fifth set timeout when ACA held a 13-9 lead.
Just after that, sophomore Macey Nehring put down the final two kills to seal the match and the championship for the Eagles. Those two kills brought Nehring to 18 for the match, with other sophomore teammates Carley Craighead having 20 and Anna Weathers 15 kills.
Ankeny Christian sophomore setter Katie Quick, an all-stater as a freshman, had a very good night, with eight kills, 15 digs and 52 assists. She is a daughter of Coach Michele Quick, and senior teammate Hayley Quick is her sister, making for a big family component of the program.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck head coach Paula Kelley led the team to a 2020 state tourney berth, when then-sophomore Ava Wyatt came to state attention. Kelley coaches at her alma mater, where as a G-R player in 1988 she was on a state runner-up team. Senior Wyatt led Gladbrook-Reinbeck (34-10) in the championship match with 25 kills, while freshman Kennedy Brant had 18 kills and senior setter Emma McClintock passed out 57 assists.
As the match began, G-R had the upper hand in hitting percentage, to seize a 2-0 sets lead. By the end of the match, the hitting became better for ACA and leveled off for the Rebels. Ankeny Christian also had more ace serves than Gladbrook-Reinbeck.
G-R appeared to be ready to close out the match in the third set, when holding a 21-14 lead. A few minutes later, Ankeny Christian won six points in a row, and later tied it at 22. Gladbrook-Reinbeck had a match point at 24-22, but the Eagles fended that off and won 28-26 to extend the match to a fourth set.
The fourth set saw G-R jump out early, giving renewed hope to their fans for a title. ACA’s first lead in the set came at 7-6, but the Rebels reclaimed the lead, got ahead 23-21 and after a kill by returning all-state 6-foot middle blocker Megan Cooley, got a match point at 24-22. Just like she would later do in the fifth set, Nehring excelled late, putting down two kills, then a G-R service error resulted in ACA taking the set 26-24 after nabbing the final four points.
Twenty minutes later, the 2 hour, 15 minute-long match ended with the Eagles getting the 1A championship, with observers noting their potential to do big things in 2023.
G-R, the No.3 seed, had reached the finals after wins over Holy Trinity Catholic and Ackley-Geneva Wellsburg-Steamboat Rock, while Ankeny Christian, the No. 4 seed, had been v