CEDAR RAPIDS - For the first time in program history, the Iowa Central volleyball team is headed to the semifinals.
The Tritons secured their spot in the final four of the NJCAA Div. II Championship with a victory over Catawba Valley here Tuesday evening.
Scores were 25-18, 25-14 and 26-24.
Iowa Central (21-3 overall), the No. 3 seed of the tournament, will meet No. 2 Parkland on Wednesday night in the semis. Parkland advanced with a sweep of Sauk Valley (25-20, 25-9, 25-16).
This is the sixth appearance all-time for the Tritons at nationals and just the second time making it to the quarterfinals, joining the 2012 team.
"We knew we had this kind of potential going into the year," Iowa Central head coach Sara Horn said. "I thought we did a great job of coming out and handling our first match. Obviously, there are going to be nerves, but we battled through those and played a very good match to begin the day.
"I really liked our schedule (the Tritons played at 9 a.m. in the first round with the quarters beginning shortly after 6 p.m.) coming in. We were the first match of the day, didn't have to wait to start and had a nice break. It was sort of like most club tournaments, and with a group that played a lot of club volleyball, I thought they handled that well."
As has been the case all season, the big hitters of the Iowa Central attack took control early led by returning All-American Kealey Anderson. The sophomore recorded 12 kills with 12 digs and two assists while Angel Baylark added 12 kills.
In a back-and-forth first set, the Tritons used a 7-2 run to take control, leading 17-11. They finished things off with a 5-2 rally to take the opening set.
"We knew Catawba Valley would make us earn it," Horn said. "All the teams in the final eight are going to be tough. We just kept our composure and continued to attack."
Another run in the second put Iowa Central in firm control, going on a 10-3 run before again closing strong with eight of the final 12 points of the set.
"We're playing lights-out and I'm so proud of our team," Anderson said. "Everyone contributes and lays it all out on the floor. As a team, we're clicking better now than we ever have before.
"I'm so excited for (Wednesday) and I can't wait to see how far we go."
Catawba Valley jumped out early with four straight points to begin the third, but a 7-0 rally by the Tritons gave them momentum right back.
Baylark recorded the final kill of the match, sealing the trip to the semifinals.
"We are a focused team that keeps getting up and working together to win," Alesha Johnson said. "I'm so happy for our accomplishments and looking forward to our next games."
"We're all super stoked," Steffes said. "We're all ready to make history. We've all worked so hard for this and we can't wait for the semifinals."
-By Dana Becker