CEDAR FALLS — It’s been 365 days since the Cedar Falls High volleyball team lost a set.
A year ago, Columbus upended the Tigers 21-18 at Cedar Falls’ Tiger Invitational. Cedar Falls rallied to win set three of that match and start a streak of set victories that reached 112 Saturday with a run to another championship in its own tournament.
“It was something we talked about at the beginning of the year this season,” junior setter Emerson Green said. “We set the goal of not losing a set for a year and we did it, but we are not finished yet.”
The Tigers, ranked No. 1 in Class 5A, won 12 straight Saturday while competing against a strong field. Four of last year’s five state champions participated and seven of the 16 teams are ranked in the top 10 of their respective classes.
“This team is so special,” added Green, who put up 118 assists throughout the day. “We spend so much time together on and off the court that we are like one unit. We know each other so well and trust whoever gets the ball to put it down. It is such an awesome feeling. The coaches have done such a great job getting us ready and right now we are playing almost without a flaw.”
The Tigers were flawless in pool play, taking down Marshalltown 21-5, 21-5, Columbus 21-8, 21-12 and Fort Dodge 21-8, 21-11.
The dominance continued in championship bracket play as Cedar Falls opened with a 21-10, 21-3 shellacking of Center Point-Urbana, then took on a scrappy Janesville team and prevailed 21-12, 21-14.
In the championship match, the Tigers faced off against Class 5A’s seventh-ranked West Des Moines Dowling. The result was the same as Cedar Falls opened with a 25-7 first-set victory and closed it out with a 25-19 win.
“I think we caught them at the right time,” Tigers coach Matt Johnson said. “We had a long break between this game and the semis while they had to play six straight sets to get here. I think them being tired was a little bit of the deal in the first set.
“They realized what was going on and played better in the second set.” s
Senior hitter Dara Hulstein provided plenty of offensive power for the Tigers as she delivered 20 kills and six blocks at the net. Along with Akacia Brown, the one-two punch of the Tigers was relentless all day.
“We are not afraid to go at it at the net,” said Hulstein. “If it is not me or Akacia (43 kills) or Alayna (Yates, 35 kills, 16 blocks) scoring, it will be us blocking what comes over.
“This is Cedar Falls volleyball and we are coming after you. This team is absolutely amazing, and we love to get after each point. If I wasn’t playing volleyball I think I would try out for the football team. I’m serious.”
From offense to defense to serving, Cedar Falls was on point Saturday.
“We played with better intensity today and things looked the way they were supposed to,” said Johnson. “We had a good week of practice and the girls stayed focused.
“This group does not need any motivation from the coaches. They understand what to do and they put up great blocking today and the defense was solid. Emerson Green can set the ball in the right place consistently and she had a great day with her defense. I thought Emily Clapp had a great defensive day and the team just played so well.”
POOL A — Cedar Falls def. Marshalltown 21-5, 21-5, Waterloo Columbus def. Fort Dodge 21-11, 21-15, Marshalltown def. Ft. Dodge 21-11, 16-21, 15-13, Cedar Falls def. Columbus 21-8, 21-12, Cedar Falls def. Ft. Dodge 21-8, 21-11, Columbus def. Marshalltown 21-18, 21-12.
POOL B — Grundy Center def. Waterloo East 21-14, 21-13, Center Point-Urbana def. Des Moines Roosevelt 21-19, 21-13, Grundy Center def. CPU 23-21, 21-12, DM Roosevelt def. East 21-16, 17-21, 15-10, Grundy Center def. Roosevelt 21-8, 21-16, CPU def. East 21-7, 21-12.
POOL C — Dike-New Hartford def. Cedar Rapids Prairie 22-20, 21-18, West Delaware def. Waterloo West 21-19, 21-19, West def. CR Prairie 21-13, 10-21, 15-11, West Delaware def D-NH 21-16, 21-12, West def. D-NH 21-23, 21-19, 15-9, West Delaware def. Prairie 21-17, 21-18.
POOL D — Janesville def. Charles City 21-12, 21-5, West Des Moines Dowling def. Cedar Rapids Washington 21-14, 21-15, Charles City def. Washington 23-25, 21-14, 15-5, Janesville def. Dowling 21-19, 21-10, Janesville def. Washington 21-8, 21-15, Dowling def. Charles City 21-9, 23-21.
Quarterfinals — Ft. Dodge def. Roosevelt 21-18, 15-21, 15-11, D-NH def. Washington 21-19, 25-23, Marshalltown def. East 21-12, 21-14, Prairie def. Charles City 21-19, 21-15.
Semifinals — D-NH def. Roosevelt 25-10, 25-20, Prairie def. Marshalltown 25-23, 23-25, 15-5.
Championship — D-NH def. Prairie 25-15, 23-25, 15-10.
Quarterfinals — Cedar Falls def. CPU 21-10, 21-3, Grundy Center def. Columbus 21-16, 20-22, 15-6, Janesville def. West 21-12, 21-14, Dowling def. West Delaware 21-12, 18-21, 15-13.
Semifinals — Cedar Falls def. Janesville 25-15, 25-17, Dowling def. Grundy Center 16-25, 25-18, 15-7.
Championship — Cedar Falls def. Dowling 25-7, 25-19.