CEDAR RAPIDS– All season long, the West High Women of Troy volleyball team had two phrases they lived by: Live Like Line and Remember Us. The first was a tribute to friend and teammate Caroline Found (nicknamed “Line”), who died in a moped accident in August. The second was a message to fans, friends and foes alike. It was not a question, it was a statement: “Remember us; we’re coming back to state.” Not only did the team overcome its grief to dominate the regular season as the top-ranked team in Class 4A, the Women of Troy made it to the state tournament for the fourth year in a row.
And they won it all. Again.
The championship campaign started Wednesday, Nov. 9, with a quarterfinal round bout against Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln. West swept the Lynx of Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln 3-0 at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.
The Lynx stunned West with a 5-0 run to open the first game. West coach Kathy Bresnahan wasn’t worried, though.
“I’m never concerned about the first few points of a match,” she said.
A Shelly Stumpff kill tied the game at 15-15 before West pulled away to the 25-20 win.
The Women of Troy pounded on the Lynx in game two, enroute to the 25-15 win.
West alternated between tying and trailing through the first half of the third game.
“We laid back a little,” Olivia Fairfield said. “We can’t do that here, we can’t take any team like that. We have to keep pushing and find the spark and kill that will turn the game,” she said.
The spark was ignited as West took a 21-15 lead. The Lynx prolonged their time on the state court with a pair of three-point runs to narrow the gap to 22-20, but the Women of Troy emerged victorious, 25-20.
Stumpff had nine kills and three aces for the afternoon. Fairfield also had nine kills, one ace, two solo blocks and four assisted. Anna Pashkova came up with nine digs; Kelley Fliehler had 30 assists and was a perfect 13-13 in serving. Olivia Mekies served 11-11 with an ace as did Mason, who put up four kills. Hannah Infelt had six kills, freshman Laynie Whitehead made four.
Veterans Day, Friday, Nov. 11, found West facing MVC rival Cedar Rapids Kennedy in the semifinal round. When the battle was over, West prevailed 3-2 to advance to Saturday’s championship match.
The Women of Troy took the first two games, 25-18 and 25-18, but fell 23-25 in the third and 15-25 in the fourth before rallying to a 15-7 victory in game five. Stumpff led with 13 kills, Fairfield had an even dozen. Stumpff led in service aces with six, Fairfield made four. Mekies made 17-17 serves, Pashkova was perfect in her 16 serves, and Mason went 11-11 in serves. Pashkova led in digs with 28 while Mekies and Stumpff had a dozen each, retiring Kennedy with a 30-10 record
Saturday morning (Nov. 12), West squared-off against cross-town rivals, the Little Hawks of City High. West had beaten City twice this season, including the annual Battle for the Spike, yet the Little Hawks rolled into the Ice Arena with a 40-3 record to West’s 38-6.
City took the first two matches, 25-23 and 29-27, but the Women of Troy didn’t panic.
“Those games were so close. If we’d been blown out it would’ve been different, but we just said ‘you know, a match like that, there’s two or three points that swung it.’ I said, ‘we gave them those two or three, so let’s just start over. Assume we’re playing best of three and let’s start over,” Bresnahan said.
“We got it going again,” Stumpff said, “and we got the win!”
Indeed, West plowed ahead to 25-16 and 25-15 wins, forcing the fifth game, which was fought tooth-and-nail for an 18-16 win and the state championship.
“We had a little extra help at the end from some of City High’s miscues,” the coach said. West blocking also made the difference. “We started playing tremendous defense. We weren’t playing much defense those first two games. We kinda took off, took a vacation there.”
“We just knew we weren’t going to go out that easy, 3-0,” Stumpff said. “There was no way that was going to happen.”
Stumpff led the Women of Troy in the final match with 22 kills, Fairfield made 13, and Infelt had eight. Mason put up a pair of kills while Whitehead and Kelly Fliehler had one apiece. Fliehler was on fire with 38 assists.
“Kelly did an awesome job setting,” an emotional Stumpff said. “She stepped up this year, first year setting. I’m proud of her, she did awesome out there.”
Mason led in serves with a perfect 25-25; Pashkova made 21-21 and led in the digging department with 21.
“We wanted this so bad this year,” Stumpff said. “It feels so good being back here again.” The senior celebrated her 18th birthday along with her team’s victory. “I don’t think I’ll ever top this birthday. I don’t know how.”
Stumpff and Fairfield were named to the Class 4A all-tournament team, along with Rachel Rinehart from City High, Alexus Rogers from Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Maddie Manning from Ankeny and Michaela Nelson from City. Stumpff was named captain as well as earning the Pizza Ranch “Player of the Match” award.