Photos: Alyssa Noble
Wartburg’s 2014 volleyball season was defined by inconsistency. So was the final chapter Thursday night.
Third-seeded Buena Vista (25-10) rallied from a first-set loss to eliminate No. 2 seed Wartburg (24-11) in the Iowa Conference semifinals 20-25, 25-16, 25-21, 25-22.
The Beavers will take on regular season champion Coe in the final Saturday night, its first championship appearance since 2003. Wartburg meanwhile, won’t have a shot to defend its two consecutive tournament championships that gave it automatic NCAA tournament bids.
“It’s just really indicative of how our season’s gone. We’ve been really inconsistent,” Walker said. “Set one it looked awesome. It looked like we were on the right track for the night. We just couldn’t seem to get things together in the second.”
The Knights led throughout the opening set and hit .263, but then .087 and .043 in the next two.
Maddie Bardole led the Beavers with 17 kills, followed by Jade Schaap’s 16 and Emily Matthews’ 14. Jordan Henningsen had 31 digs, Bardole 26.
Bailey Wilson notched 14 kills in her final match as a Knight. Maria Brown totaled 20 assists and three service aces. Jamie Farley finished with 30 digs.
Wartburg beat Buena Vista in five sets last week to clinch the No. 2 seed and a first round bye in the conference tournament. The Beavers came back to Waverly seeking revenge, and never looked back in set two after forcing an early Wartburg timeout with a 4-1 lead.
“We played less aggressively. I think our serve was less aggressive,” Walker said. “We did a great job serving in the first set, didn’t miss a serve. We were taking them out of their offense, which I think a lot of times people don’t realize how critical that serve is.”
Video: Seth Nutting
Wartburg got within one twice in set three (12-11, 13-12) after BV slowly pulled away from a 4-4 tie, but the Beavers scored the next four points on a Celie Kohls block and ace and two Schaap kills.
Wilson gave the Knights a chance in the fourth set, scoring four of five Wartburg points with kills during a stretch that put Wartburg up 17-15. Then, three straight attacking errors gave BV the lead back and zapped any momentum the Knights accumulated.
The match ended when Wartburg didn’t communicate on Emma Harmeyer’s set and the ball fell helplessly to the court without them realizing it until it was too late.
Wilson, the IIAC leader in kills per set, had five kills in the opening set, then just five in the next 2 1/2 combined.
“When we’ve got the pass on, we’re going to go to Bailey because she was terminating beautifully for us,” Walker said. “In the second and third sets particularly, she really didn’t get the ball much. She’s part of the reason why we can string a lot of runs together. It just didn’t fall our way tonight. We wish we could have gotten the ball to her because she was ready to play. She was playing like a senior on her last night.”
Wilson had five blocks and the Knights finished with 10 as a team, but it still wasn’t enough to slow down BV’s powerful outside attack led by Schaap, who had four kills in each set.
“We have gigantic blockers in front of her and she’ll swing it off the block and get the kill,” Walker said. “I told someone on the bench that we should be statting how many times it’s going off her block tonight. That was a week ago and she continued to do it tonight.”
Wartburg finishes an up-and-down campaign 24-11, a season that saw it beat then-No. 2 Wis.-Stevens Point but also drop three Iowa Conference matches after finishing the last two seasons unscathed.
“We just couldn’t seem to get things together in the second (set),” Walker said. “That mentality just kind of hung on.”