THEA AND OUT
Rotto torments Lynx, No. 10 Gilbert wins in sweep
GILBERT — Webster City was far from perfect during last night’s Class 4A Region 5 semifinal, but the question has to be asked: Did it really matter?
Realistically, perfection probably wouldn’t have been enough and the reason why was simple: Thea Rotta was wearing a Gilbert jersey.
Rotta, the Tigers’ all-state outside hitter, put on a one-girl show throughout the hour-long contest with 13 kills, as she powered Gilbert past WCHS in a sweep, 25-13, 25-10, 25-17.
Tenth-ranked Gilbert (25-9) advanced to Tuesday’s regional final against second-ranked Waverly-Shell Rock in Waverly.
Rotta did the majority of her damage from the left side of the floor and there was little the Lynx could do to stop her. WCHS libero Alayna Finucan has spent her entire career frustrating opposing attackers, but she was virtually handcuffed when Rotto was pummeling the ball straight to the ground only feet past the net.
“She does a really good job of placing the ball and hitting it fast so that you don’t have much time to think,” WCHS head coach Jess Howard said of Rotto, who is Gilbert’s all-time leader in kills. “You can look at her numbers and know she’s that good, but going up against it, it makes you realize what she has. We tried to adjust the defense to make her hit to certain spots to where we could play defense against it, but she does a good job of hitting through the block too. It makes it really hard to read her.”
WCHS (14-15) led on just one occasion after Gilbert sailed an attack long on the opening point of the third set. Otherwise, it was all Tigers.
Rotto was the obvious culprit for the Lynx demise, but their own wobbles on serve receive had plenty to do with the quick contest. Gilbert opened the bout with six consecutive points on the serve of Nessa Johnson, who finished the stanza with three aces. The Tigers piled up 10 ace serves in the match.
WCHS improved against the serve in the third set, but by then it was too late to mount a charge.
“They do a really good job of working the float serves so that it’s hard to tell whether it’s going to go short or long,” Howard said. “It kept us off balance all night.”
And for the second consecutive postseason outing, WCHS finished with a negative kill efficiency (-.088) with 25 errors and just 18 kills. Sierra Rattenborg laced seven, but no other player had more than three.
Finucan collected a team-high 12 digs, while Joslin Gourley added six and Jenna Miller checked in with five. Gourley and Miller also combined to dish out 13 assists.
Miller had both of the Lynx service aces and they came in succession in the opening set. After the early deficit, WCHS went on an 8-4 run to close to within two points, but Gilbert answered with a 9-1 spurt to take full command.
Rotta blasted four consecutive kills — all elicited oohs from the crowd — during one stretch late in the second set that increased Gilbert’s cushion to 22-9.
The Tigers built a nine-point lead in the third set before WCHS put together a mini-rally to pull within five, 17-12, following back-to-back Faith Anderson kills. But the Lynx never got closer.
It wasn’t the ending that Howard and her players had in mind, but the Lynx coach said the players should be proud of their growth over the season. Relatively young, WCHS finished third in the North Central Conference.
“You don’t really ever remember that last (match), you remember the season and what happened,” Howard said. “This game did a good job of depicting the season because as it went on we got better. The seniors (Anderson, Miller, Lexi Nichols and Leah Kasch) did a really good job of teaching these underclassmen what it’s going to take to be successful.”
Class 4A Region 5 Semifinal
Gilbert 3, Webster City 0
Thursday at Gilbert
Attacks — Sierra Rattenborg 17-20, 7 kills; Lexi Nichols 5-7, 3 kills; Joslin Gourley 7-9, 3 kills; Faith Anderson 13-22, 2 kills; Alayna Finucan 7-7, 1 kill; Reese Casey 4-7, 1 kill; Livia Kasch 1-7, 1 kill.
Blocks — Casey 3, Nichols 1, Li. Kasch 1.
Digs — Finucan 12, Gourley 6, Jenna Miller 5, Alley Odland 3, Kelly Stoakes 3, Leah Kasch 3, Rattenborg 3, Anderson 3, Casey 2, Li. Kasch 1.
Assists — Gourley 9, Miller 4.
Serving — Miller 9-9, 2 aces; Finucan 9-9; Odland 7-7; Stoakes 5-5; Le. Kasch 5-5; Rattenborg 3-3; Gourley 2-3.