Saving the best for last, Ar-We-Va avenged three regular season losses to CAM on Thursday night with a 3-1 victory over the 13th-ranked Cougars in a Class 1A regional semifinal volleyball match at Audubon.
After losing a tight game one, 26-24, Ar-We-Va rebounded with three straight victories of 25-18, 25-20 and 25-23 to improve to 17-10 overall in matches and 49-31 in games.
CAM, which swept Ar-We-Va in their Rolling Valley Conference regular season match and beat the Rockets twice by 2-1 margins to win the league tournament title, saw its season halted at 26-10 overall with Thursday’s four-game setback.
Ar-We-Va will now take on No. 11 Gladbrook-Reinbeck (27-9) in the Region 3 championship match tonight (Tuesday) at Boone at 7 p.m.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck moved into the final after sweeping No. 5 North Tama in a regional semifinal match on Tuesday night at Traer.
Ar-We-Va will be looking to advance to the state tournament for the third time in school history after making trips to Cedar Rapids in 1994 and 2003.
Tuesday’s match for Ar-We-Va didn’t start out the way it wanted, as CAM raced out to a 10-1 lead in game one and looked to be cruising before the Rockets forced a 13-13 tie and eventually rallied to take an 18-17 lead.
Ar-We-Va then looked to be in good shape with a 24-22 lead, but a Rocket serve into the net fueled a 4-0 CAM run that ended with the Cougars taking the early lead after game one.
Ar-We-Va controlled game two early on, as the Rockets jumped ahead 10-2 and led 17-9 before CAM rallied to within 17-13. The Rockets, though, would hold on and even the match at one apiece with a seven-point win.
The Rockets continued to ride their momentum with another quick start in game three, as Hoffman’s club led 7-2 early and 19-10 before CAM put together a rally to pull to within 19-14.
CAM did get to within three points late, but Ar-We-Va again remained strong and won by five points to take a 2-1 lead in games.
Game four went back and forth with the two teams battling to ties at 5-5, 10-10, 17-17 and 23-23, but the Cougars never could take the lead, as the Rockets scored the final two points of the set for the 3-1 match victory.
Senior Emilee Danner of Ar-We-Va enjoyed one of her best nights of the season with 31 kills, 18 digs and seven total blocks with six of those solos.
Jadeyn Smith added four kills, 12 digs and three solo blocks. Sara Schurke had a team-high 30 assists with 10 digs and three ace serves.
Leslie Luft chipped in with 14 digs. Emily Hinners had three kills and one solo block. Hannah Kraus had 16 digs, four ace serves and two assists, while Bridget Cameron finished with four digs and one solo block.
"This was the team we wanted to beat. We knew we could compete with them, but it was just a matter of the girls believing that they could actually play with them," commented Ar-We-Va’s Hoffman.
"Both teams struggled tonight in serving. Both teams made mistakes that helped out the other team, but in the end, our girls just made the plays when they needed to. I couldn’t be more proud of this group of girls," she added.
"All of the girls played well tonight. Danner just had another great night for us, as she was on with her spikes from the back row and did a nice job of disrupting CAM’s hitters with her blocking. She really brought it home for us in the end," Hoffman remarked.
"Like I mentioned earlier, all of the girls did an awesome job tonight and it took a complete team effort to win. It was a lot of fun to watch this team compete like they did," the Rocket boss said.
CAM coach Craig Fredin knew Thursday’s match was going to be tight.
"Yeah, we knew we were going to have our hands full. We swept them in our conference matchup and won 2-1 twice at the league tournament, but the sets just kept getting tighter and tighter, so we knew we were going to be in for a dog fight," Fredin stated.
"Ar-We-Va, I thought, did a nice job of making adjustments. It looked like they changed their rotation a little bit and that played a big role."
"For the most part, I thought Danner and Madison Gettler neutralized each other, but Danner just had more runs than Gettler did, so that was just a matchup that went in their favor tonight," Fredin said.
"But it was more than just Danner. I thought Ar-We-Va’s other players really stepped up tonight and provided the lift they needed."
Gettler finished with 11 kills in the match. CAM was led by Macy Ticknor with 12.
"Serving hurt us tonight. We were around 92 percent for the year, but tonight I think we were closer to 80 percent. The girls tried to go after the ace serve too much instead of just getting the ball over the net and then playing solid defense," Fredin remarked.
"Give the Ar-We-Va girls credit. They just made more plays than we did tonight," Fredin said.