Comets fall to Vikings in volleyball regional semifinals
By John Burbridge
DECORAH — The Charles City Comets picked the right time to get healthy and play their best volleyball of the season for the Class 4A-Region 4 Tournament.
In the first round of the bracket, the Comets faced Mason City at North Iowa Area Community College on Tuesday. The Mohawks had defeated the Comets twice during the regular season with abbreviated straight-set victories.
Fresh off a third-place finish at the Northeast Iowa Conference Tournament where the Comets defeated several teams that also downed them twice earlier in the season, Charles City had reason to believe the flipped trend would continue at NIACC.
But when the Mohawks won the first set 25-17, the reality was that Charles City was now 0-5 in set results this season against Mason City.
Things finally turned when the Comets won the next two sets — 25-20, 25-21 — and were leading 23-18 in the fourth set.
The Mohawks rallied to tie the set at 23-23, but the Comets were a point away from advancing only to have a line call give Mason City new life while enabling the Mohawks to extend the match with an extended 26-24 set win.
This is where Mohawk fans had reason to get excited — which they did — and Charles City fans had reason to get nervous — which they were as a pall of silence enveloped the side of the bleachers where the Comet faithful sat.
For the Comets, they appeared doomed to endure one of those wrenching “life-learning experiences” that are the primary function of prep sports in the event of losing the fifth set with the pang of knowing how close they were to winning the fourth.
But going into the fifth set, the Comets comported themselves in a rather loose manner as if to convey … Don’t worry, we got this.
They must have known more than some of their frazzled supporters as the Comets took advantage of several Mohawk unforced errors while cruising to a 15-2 deciding set win on way to the regional semifinals.
Leading the way against Mason City for the Comets were senior Kaylee Anderson (11 kills, 6 blocks), senior Rachel Chambers (10 kills, 18 digs, 2 blocks), freshman Anya Ruzicka (22 assists), junior Morgan Maloy (19 assists, 10 digs), sophomore Keely Collins (9 kills, 3 blocks), freshman Mya Rimrod (14 digs), sophomore Claire Girkin (team-leading 7 blocks), and senior Alyvia Vance, who came off the bench to replace ankle-injured starter Ava Ellis and was credited with a pair of service aces.
The effort gave Charles City a chance to avenge some more earlier setbacks when taking on No. 12-ranked Decorah on the Vikings’ home gym on Thursday.
Like they did against the Mohawks, the Comets lost to Decorah multiple times during the regular season, including at the NEIC tournament.
But there was no upstart upset here as the Vikings advanced to the finals next Tuesday (Oct. 26), where they will face No. 1-ranked Western Dubuque, by way of a straight-set (25-15, 25-11, 25-11) win over the Comets.
Decorah jumped out to big leads in all three sets, though the Comets — at times — did return some punches .
Problem was the Vikings were quick to counter. For instance in the third set, Collins recorded back-to-back-in-your-face blocks on successive Decorah attacks only to have the Vikings scamble all over the floor to dig out the would-be kills and continue the rally before eventually scoring the point.
“We showed a lot of grit during the season,” said Comet head coach Sue Hoefer, whose team finished at 13-23. “Every week there was always something … we had a lot of grandparent funerals this year … some of our girls were sick with mono … always something.
“But we still managed to get better and grow along the way. And our returning players will continue to get better.”