The fourth-ranked Iowa Central volleyball team now has their moment right in front of them.
Following a three-set sweep of Ellsworth here Sunday inside Hodges Fieldhouse, the Tritons will host No. 9 Hawkeye on Tuesday night. With a win, Iowa Central (18-3 overall) punches its ticket to the NJCAA Div. II Championships to be held in Cedar Rapids this April.
"I like our focus," Iowa Central head coach Sara Horn said. "We were really clean and just had a good mindset coming in. We started talking about this a couple weeks ago and have been working on some different goals during practice."
The Tritons jumped right out on the Panthers (6-15), scoring 10 of the first 13 points in the match. Kealey Anderson had eight kills in the opening set with Angel Baylark and Katilyn Steffes adding three each.
From there, Iowa Central continued to play flawlessly, picking up three blocks and two aces to put Ellsworth away and take a 1-0 lead.
Anderson finished with 17 kills and eight digs with two aces, Steffes had 12 kills, 11 digs, two aces and two blocks, Baylark added five kills and five blocks, and Alesha Johnson 34 assists with 13 digs.
"We wanted to make sure we weren't peaking too early," Horn said. "I feel like we looked efficient. We just kept doing some of the same drills we do all year during practice to see where we are at."
The Tritons had a stretch where they were without several key pieces, but they continued to dominate on the court. Iowa Central has now won eight of its last nine and are 11-1 at home on the year.
Since the 2018 season, the Tritons have gone 79-19 including 34-4 inside Hodges Fieldhouse.
In the second set, a 6-0 run put Iowa Central in control. Anderson had six more kills and they recorded five blocks as a collective unit.
Hawkeye (16-5) topped North Iowa Area in four sets on Sunday to advance. During the regular season, the Tritons swept the two meetings, 3-1 and 3-0.
"We're familiar with them having played twice this year," Horn said. "We know they have good players. I like that we'll be playing on a Tuesday as we've done that quite a bit this season and have a good routine set."
The national tournament takes place April 13-15.
-By Dana Becker