At 6'-3", Mackenzie May scored on 27 kills to overcome Xavier in three games at the IGHSAU State Championships in November. Photo by Dave Mable

One for the ages: Ankeny Centennial and Valley in an epic battle

West Des Moines Valley fought back after going two games down to take Centennial the distance - and more - in a 5 game, multiple set-point match.

West Des Moines Valley fought back after going two games down to take Centennial the distance – and more – in a 5 game, multiple set-point match.

By John Naughton
Photos by David Mable

CEDAR RAPIDS, Ia. — In a volleyball match with a staggering 234 points, it’s hard to imagine players and coaches begging for more.

Two-time state champion Ankeny Centennial won a five-set Class 5A semifinal against West Des Moines Valley on Thursday at the U.S. Cellular Center 25-15, 25-15, 27-25, 32-34, 19-17 in a match that lasted more than two hours.

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In the end, Centennial had the survival mode to reach Friday’s state championship for a third straight time.

“I looked at (libero Kylee Macke) and she just had that drive in her eyes,” Centennial outside hitter Olivia Sandquist said. “It said we are going to go back.”

“I looked at (libero Kylee Macke) and she just had that drive in her eyes.”

The public-address announcer repeated “set, match point” five times in the fifth set.

Kenna Sauer hammered 21 kills and Sandquist added 10.

The longest match of the tournament saw Ankeny Centennial come out on top to advance to the finals against Cedar Falls.

The longest match of the tournament saw Ankeny Centennial come out on top to advance to the finals against Cedar Falls.

Second-ranked Centennial (34-3) will play No. 1 Cedar Falls (40-3) in the championship at 10 a.m. Friday.

Centennial reached match point in the third set but Valley fought back.

The Tigers (41-5) successively forced a fourth set, then a fifth.

Valley had match point at 14-13 in the final frame. Then Centennial took over, finally winning in its fourth match point.

Centennial coach Jessica Rinehart said she looked at her bench and wondered, “How hard is one point to come by?”

“Every single point mattered, and Valley put the pressure on,” Rinehart said.

Valley’s Hannah Lockin pounded a match-best 24 kills and teammate Madi Kubik added 19 in the loss.

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“It’s amazing, coming back like that,” Valley setter Olivia Curry said. “It’s heartbreaking that we didn’t win.”

The teams combined for 118 kills, 112 assists, 235 serves and 114 digs.

“We’re both really great teams,” Sandquist said. “Those are the wins that feel the greatest.”

Valley coach Jeremy Mikesell said his team’s only previous five-set match, a win over Cedar Rapids Prairie in a regional final, helped prepare the team.

No. 1 ranked Cedar Falls beat the Ankeny Hawks to advance to the finals and take on the defending champion Centennial Jaguars.

No. 1 ranked Cedar Falls beat the Ankeny Hawks to advance to the finals and take on the defending champion Centennial Jaguars.

“I knew at some point that was going to come back and help us out,” Mikesell said.

Newcomer: Majda Suljic worried about being the new girl at school when she transferred to Cedar Falls. Her volleyball teammates helped her navigate the hallways. Suljic, a junior, said her teammates were “super inviting.”

“Once I got to the team, I really found my place,” Suljic said.

Cedar Falls won its semifinal Thursday and will face Centennial in the Class 5A state championship Friday.

Cry uncle: Ankeny setter Liv Winker had a special fan cheering for her in a semifinal match Thursday. The senior’s uncle is Mike Winker, a former activities director at Cedar Rapids Xavier. Both Ankeny and Xavier completed their seasons in semifinal action, Ankeny in Class 5A and Xavier in 4A.

A seat with a view: Former Ankeny High School coach Dave Whims had a great seat during the Class 5A semifinals Thursday. Whims placed a chair between the side-by-side courts to he could watch Ankeny take on Cedar Falls and Ankeny Centennial face West Des Moines Valley. Many of the players on the court were introduced to the sport by Whims.

At 6'-3", Mackenzie May scored on 27 kills to overcome Xavier in three games.

At 6′-3″, Mackenzie May scored on 27 kills to overcome Xavier in three games.

The 4A Dubuque Wahlert team relied on 6′-3″ Mackenzie May’s 27 kills to overcome Cedar Rapids Xavier in three straight games. Wahlert will take on top seeded Pella in the finals at noon on Friday. May, a member of the U.S. Junior National Indoor Team, travels frequently to play the beach volleyball circuit in Florida and California. May will be be entering UCLA to play volleyball in the fall.

Bishop Heelan took Pella to five games. After splitting the first two games, Bishop Heelan took the lead in game three and threatened to upset the no. 1 seed. The Dutch wore Heelan down, winning the final two games 25-14 and 15 – 11 earning a spot in the finals against May and the Wahlert team.

Emily Holterhaus celebrates as Pella advances to the finals.

Emily Holterhaus celebrates as Pella advances to the finals.

In 3A Dike New Hartford continued it’s winning ways by sending Kuemper Catholic home, but not without a fight. Kuemper’s Kara Peter and Aimee Adams combined for 28 kills to push the third game beyond 25, forcing Dike New Hartford to score 29 points to move on.

The other 3A team to earn Friday play is Union who’s No. 13 Megan Hudson and No. 11 Payton Parker combined for 51 kills to overcome a feisty Mount Vernon in four games. Mount Vernon took Union to the limit, pushing the fourth game past 25 points, the final score 32-30.

Megan Hudson scored 25 kills helping top-seeded Union to the finals.

Megan Hudson scored 25 kills helping top-seeded Union to the finals.

In 2A, eight-seed Waterloo Columbus Catholic continues it’s upsetting ways by beating four-seed Unity Christian in three close games. Waterloo will take on Western Christian, who wore down Council Bluffs St. Albert in three games, earning a spot on the court in the finals.

Janesville’s front line recorded 46 kills to take down Holy Trinity Catholic in three games, who’s 31 kills were not enough. Janesville will take on Hudson in the finals at 7:00 p.m. After loosing the first game to Springville, it was all Hudson as No. 12 Kiley DiBerg had 34 kills to help their team to the finals.

Famous names: The Clayberg family of Pella owns a well-established athletic name. Brothers Nathan and Noah were all-state football players. Now sister Natalie, a sophomore, has helped the volleyball team reach the Class 4A state championship. Dad Brett was a football star and mom Megan played and coached volleyball. Noah plays at Iowa and Nathan is at Drake.

John Naughton, The Des Moines Register. jnaughton@dmreg.com