Lynx overpowered by state bound and No. 4 Heelan

SIOUX CITY – Size, speed, strength, skill; the fourth-ranked Bishop Heelan volleyball team possesses it all and then some.

With a berth in the Class 4A state tournament on the line, the Crusaders held nothing back inside their home gymnasium affectionately known as The Pit Monday night. Webster City just happened to be the unlucky team that was dealt the bad draw.

Behind all-state outside hitter Samantha McCabe, a 6-foot junior, and a host of other offensive weapons, Bishop Heelan needed just a little more than an hour to dispose of WCHS, 3-0, in the 4A Region 1 final. On the strength of the 25-12, 25-13, 25-13 rout, the Crusaders (34-8) advanced to state for the third consecutive year and for the 11th time in the past 12 seasons.

“That’s a very tough and competitive team in the state,” WCHS head coach Jess Howard said of Heelan, which won its sixth straight match and has yet to yield a set in the postseason. “There’s no shame in what we did against that team.”

WCHS (16-15) wasn’t intimidated by the taller Crusaders, proven by the fact that the Lynx started the first and second sets by taking early leads. But eventually McCabe and fellow six-footers Claire Brobst and Nicole Jacobson, as well as near six-footers Alex Hope and Allie Cooke took over both offensively and defensively.

McCabe, the youngest sister of former University of Iowa basketball player Zach McCabe, blasted 12 kills to go along with 11 digs and two blocks. Hope finished with nine kills, Jacobson added five and Cooke finished with four.

“When you go up against a team that has five hitters that are 5-10 or taller, it’s very difficult,” Howard said. “Both of our setters (Courtney Lampman and Sarah Vogelbacher) adjusted well to that and when we were able to get our offense going, we did a good job of keeping it quick.”

Taylor Schnathorst lashed eight kills in her final match inside a Lynx uniform. Classmates Olivia Myers and Devyn VanKooten added six and four kills, respectively. Kamry Dawson also smacked four.

Howard said she intentionally peppered her team with defensive drills in the days leading up to the match in an attempt to prepare for the Crusaders’ bombers, but that took time away form other areas that Heelan was able to exploit, particularly serve receive.

McCabe showed off a variety of jump serves – the floater, the short serve and the line-drive – and they all gave WCHS fits. She finished with five aces, two of them coming early in the second set that ignited a 6-1 run and gave the Crusaders a cushion they never gave up.

Heelan missed just one of 73 serves and the constant pressure forced the Lynx out of system more than Howard would have liked.

“We focused on defense this week because we knew they had a ton of weapons, but as a coach maybe I spent too much time on that and not enough on serve receive,” Howard said. “(McCabe) is just a very versatile player. Her serve was hard to read in terms of where it was going. It was hard to handle even when you knew where it was going. She did a great job of mixing it up.”

WCHS also made just one mistake behind the service line, but got 24 fewer chances and was unable to record an ace.

Halle Mason led the Lynx defensively with 12 digs, one more than Schnathorst and libero Gianna Gourley. Vogelbacher distributed 13 assists, while Lampman notched 10 and three kills.

Heelan will face fifth-ranked Charles City (37-5) in the quarterfinal round of the state tournament on Tuesday, Nov. 8 at 6 p.m. inside the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.

WCHS was forced to say goodbye to six seniors. They were the leaders of a Lynx program that reached the regional final round for the first time since 2010.

“It’s like I told the girls (in the locker room) afterwards, you’ve got to realize what you’ve done for Webster City volleyball and what you’ve shown all those little girls playing volleyball,” Howard said. “They’ve just done a tremendous job. They competed every single time out, they used the offseason to improve, they got better as the season went on and they made a run at the state tournament.”

WCHS was one of three North Central Conference programs to be denied in the regional final round on Monday. In 3A Region 3, No. 11-ranked North Polk blanked eighth-ranked and league champion Humboldt, 3-0, while in 3A Region 2, second-ranked Dike-New Hartford swept Clarion-Goldfield-Dows, 3-0.