(Cedar Rapids) -- No. 5 led to No. 1 on Friday evening in Cedar Rapids.
Sidney volleyball’s fifth state volleyball tournament was their most triumphant. The Cowgirls took a 25-17, 23-25, 25-12, 25-23 1A championship-clinching win over Wapsie Valley in a match heard on KMA 960.
“I think it’s crazy,” senior Kelsey Hobbie said. “This was my lifelong dream – well, since 8th grade year when I found out there was a state (volleyball tournament). It’s kind of amazing to see a team that’s four hours away (from Cedar Rapids) win state.”
Sidney’s 38th and final win of the season was a pure representation of the 37 that came before it. Elite defense, outstanding ball handling and incredible offensive balance.
The Cowgirls were credited with 99 digs, led by a career-high 24 from Paige Smith. Lily Johnson added 19, Maddy Duncan pitched in 17 and Olivia Larsen had 15.
“In practice, we tell them to give your teammate a chance to get the ball up so we can play it,” Coach Amy McClintock said. “They had the mentality tonight, and they all finished. I can’t say enough about all of them.”
Hobbie - the 1A All-Tournament Team captain - had 15 kills, 13 digs and five blocks.
“I knew we were capable of this after our second game,” Hobbie said. “We knew we could get better, we could improve and we could win state.”
Larsen, who finished with 51 assists, was also on the All-Tournament Team. As was Duncan, who followed a career-high in the semifinals with another in the championship, ending the evening with 17 kills - the last of those to clinch the title.
“I needed to stop tipping,” Duncan said of her final swing. “I knew that I had to put it away, so I swung hard and got it done.”
The rest of the offense came courtesy of Smith (9 kills), Presley Brumbaugh (8) and Harley Spurlock (5), who combined for 22 kills. Brumbaugh also had 10 digs.
Sidney started well enough in their second state championship appearance in school history.
The Cowgirls opened with 11 of the first 17 points, buoyed by a defense that held Wapsie Valley to just .027 hitting for the set.
The second looked to be elementary as well, with Sidney streaking out to a 16-8 advantage. Wapsie Valley - the No. 6 seed with state wins over four-time champ Janesville and 2018 runner-up Holy Trinity Catholic - stormed all the way back to take the set.
If Sidney was shook, they didn’t show it. The Cowgirls jumped right back out to an early lead, and the hole got deeper throughout the most dominating set of the night.
“Sometimes when we start out in serve receive we tend to get behind,” Coach McClintock said. “The serve receive in the second and fourth sets were different. (The second set) was a little slower paced, and we got into the tipping mode. We got back into transition and things went well.”
Finally, the fourth proved to be the tightest. Neither team held a lead of more than two until Sidney scored six of seven in nabbing a 24-18 lead.
The Warriors survived a Hobbie swing (just wide) before back-to-back-to-back blocks and a kill brought them within one. However, following another long rally, Duncan powered an aggressive swing through a block for the winner.
“It’s just an amazing feeling to do this with all my teammates, especially these three seniors,” Larsen said. “We all work together and have worked so hard for this. It’s awesome we could get it done.”
Those are the numbers and the narrative of the match. Now for the history.
The state title is Sidney’s first in volleyball and the first girls team championship of any kind for the school. It joins the 1984 Sidney boys track team as the school’s only champions. It’s also the first volleyball title for a Corner Conference school, and the first for a KMAland team not named Harlan or Kuemper.
Among all other sports, it’s the first state title for a Corner Conference school since Fremont-Mills won the 2011 football championship. Limited to female sports, it’s the first since Farragut’s 1971 basketball title.
It was also the 141st win for the senior class of Brumbaugh, Duncan, Hobbie and Larsen. And they did it in 160 career matches. That’s just 19 losses over four years, including none at home and none against Corner foes.
“They’ve worked hard for it,” McClintock said. “They’ve been playing for a long time. We knew we had a special group. It’s been really cool, and we got it finished tonight.”
In Coach McClintock’s six-year coaching career, she is now 192-34 with six state tournament victories. She joins Angie Spangenberg (Harlan twice) and Keith Stickrod (Kuemper) as KMAland volleyball coaches to win state titles.
“It’s kind of unbelievable,” McClintock said. “The goal was to end here tonight no matter what, so we just kept talking about finishing it. Stay positive, keep everybody up and I’m super proud of everybody from top to bottom.”
Sidney reached the pinnacle on Friday night. They made history and dreams come true. For every floor burn, for every tough practice and every early Saturday that turned into a late afternoon, there now sits a trophy.
Sidney made five trips to Cedar Rapids in the last five seasons. Four times they shed tears of sadness. Those four teams are part of this story - and this history, too.
Without the 2015 squad daring to test the boundaries of what can and cannot be done, this doesn’t happen. Without 2016, 2017 and 2018 taking the necessary program-growing steps, this doesn’t happen. Without Coach McClintock, assistant coach Kent Larsen and every last member of this program over the last five years, it just doesn’t happen.
And now it has happened. The ranking and the seed were correct, after all. At long last, Sidney is No. 1.
Listen to the final moments of the state championship and view complete video interviews with Coach McClintock, Hobbie, Larsen and Duncan below.