OTTUMWA — There were a boatload of nail-biters in Monday night’s Class 1A regional semifinals, but the game played at Evans Middle School in Ottumwa was not one of them. No. 11 New London blew out Melcher-Dallas in impressive fashion, sweeping 25-19. 25-11, 25-3.
The Tigers dominated the early stages of Game 1, jumping out to a 7-1 lead. Melcher Dallas stormed back to make a game of it, even cutting the deficit to one point, but New London never gave up the advantage.
The Tigers spread the kills out in the first set, getting three each from Sophie Malott, Natalie Burden, Keaura Williams and Marah Hartrick. After the Saints cut the lead to four points, at 23-19, Williams and Malott ended it with back-to-back kills.
The second set was all New London. The Tigers took a 5-4 lead after nine points and then rattled off the next 12 in a row to lead 17-4 on a kill by Paris Wilka. Wilka had four kills and a big block in the second set as the Tigers rolled 25-11.
“I think our teammates had a big impact on how we played today,” Wilka said. “They kept us going and kept our energy up.”
New London led 7-3 after 10 points in the third set. Burden netted a kill to bring the lead to 8-3, and then stepped to the service line and never left. New London scored the last 18 points of the night including six aces from Burden, who had the Saints falling over themselves trying to figure her out.
“I decided to stand this game instead of jump, and I think that helped a lot,” said Burden. “After a couple of points, I was a lot less nervous.”
To make it more impressive, New London’s dominant win came without senior hitter Sofie Reighard, who plans on returning from a quarantine on Wednesday, just in time for the regional final. Freshman Tysann Gipple was in the lineup in Reighard’s place. “I didn’t even realize she was in most of the time,” said New London coach Maureen Heath. “She didn’t make any mistakes. She did a great job as a freshman coming in like that.”
New London (21-7) will now prepare for No. 5 Southeast Warren (25-0) in the Class 1A Region 8 final on Wednesday in Ottumwa. Southeast Warren dominated its regional semifinal, sweeping Southwest Valley. The Tigers say they are ready for the big challenge.
“I feel like playing in Southeast Iowa, we have really tough competition,” said libero Kyra Linkin. “It just prepares us for postseason and gets us ready.”
That game will be played at 7 p.m. The winner will be on to next week’s state volleyball tournament in Cedar Rapids.