MT. PLEASANT — WACO’s seniors had advanced to this point — a win and on to state, but a loss and the season and careers of a group that has been playing together since middle school ends.
Sadly, it was the latter for the Warriors. A 3-0 loss to Notre Dame in a Class 1A regional final Wednesday finished WACO’s season at 26-8. Notre Dame (17-5) makes its first appearance in the state tournament, playing Wapsie Valley Tuesday.
“We broke records and we made history,” WACO senior Lona Farrier said. “This was our year. We knew from the beginning that this was going to be it.”
“The accomplishments are tremendous,” head coach Jay Coble said. “I have to think 26 wins is the most, and substate, we don’t know, but we think this is the farthest we’ve been.”
The match was close until a crucial run in the third set decided the Nikes and Warriors fates.
The opening set was tied five times through 10-10 but ND opened up a 16-12 lead. Down 21-15, Coble called time. Morgan Graber hit one of her 13 kills for 21-16, and yelled to make sure ND knew the Warriors were coming. At 22-18 Ellie Miles’s block resulted in more emotion and WACO closed to 24-22 but a timeout by ND resulted in a 25-22 set win.
“I feel things would’ve changed if we could’ve done got that set,” Farrier said. “We were trying so hard.”
The second set was tied nine times, the last at 16-16. A double hit was called on WACO and it helped ND close on a 9-2 run for the 25-18 win.
WACO started the third set behind Ellie Miles and Graber kills for a 3-1 lead that grew to 7-4 and ND co-head coach Susan Reid called timeout.
“We said someone needs to show some leadership and Katy Stephens did that,” Reid said. “She was on fire yet she was calm, cool and collected.”
Graber’s kill was the only WACO point until Coble called time down 12-8. It didn’t help. ND kept scoring until it had a 15-8 lead. Coble called time again.
“Those points were off serve reception and it was odd for us to struggle that way,” Coble said. “We could not get a good swing and they had their best blockers. We hit some balls out and we made some poor decisions.”
The Warriors were only one swing away from getting Graber back in the front row.
“We had one of our best rotations in with (5-foot-10 Stephens) and Gabby (Deery, 6-feet) in the front,” Reid said.
“The big thing was, even when we had our blocks, they would go over it,” Coble said. “We were not going to grow any tonight or get any taller.”
The third set ended at 25-15.
After getting 24 blocks at Lisbon Monday, WACO had six Wednesday, two apiece from Coble and Farrier and one each from Kisselll and Miles.
Grace Coble put up 25 assists to her Warrior teammates. Ellie Miles connected on six kills, Molly McLaughlin and Coble had four kills apiece while Lona Farrier, Ellah Kissell, and Aubri Garnsey had two each.
Garnsey dug 19 balls, McLaughlin nine, Coble and Lindsey Roth five apiece and Graber six. Garnsey landed three ace serves, Roth and McLaughlin one each.
“It’s hard to think about it being over because we’ve been playing together eight years,” Farrier said. “There was a time this season where we had to figure out some stuff because you could say we had a bit of a mental breakdown. So we had to recoup and figure things out. We did and we ended it good.”
Garnsey was better than good this season, the “best libero in the area,” Coble said. “She is going sideline to sideline, taking everything. I thought she was amazing. There’s no libero that can touch her.”
Notre Dame was hammering and Garnsey was digging nails.