The Union Knights followed a tough first round win with a shocking upset of #1 ranked and undefeated Mediapolis, only to fall short in the thrilling championship match at the Iowa Girls High School Volleyball Tournament.
The ladies came into the competition with a 33-7 record after breezing through regionals, and faced a tough Sioux Center squad on Thursday, November 8. The fan contigent for the opposition was strong, and the ladies had to play their best volleyball in the five-set match, which they won 25-14, 17-25, 25-8, 23-25, 15-13.
Payton Hilton had 13 kills and 27 attack attempts. Sam Barz led the girls with 17 kills and had five aces in the serving game.
Above, the girls fight back tears as they accept their trophy as runner-up, but they have nothing to hang their heads about.
In the second round match, the ladies took on undefeated Mediapolis, a squad that came into the contest at 43-0, heavily favored and ranked #1 in Class 3A nearly all year long.
Union made quick work of the top team, winning in straight sets, 25-19, 27-25, 25-15. Barz again led the team with 13 kills and four aces. Breann Bader also had three aces in the serving game.
The win catapulted the team into the title game with only MOC-Floyd Valley standing in their way, and the girls made a real go of it.
After winning a close first set 25-23, the Knights rallied in set two, only to fall short 21-25. Following a third set in which it looked as if Union had finally run out of gas, the ladies rebounded to win set four 25-19 behind a great serving performance from Breann Bader that allowed the girls to keep MOC's top attacker, Alexis Conaway, out of the front line. Conaway had 30 kills in the contest, but was held in check in the fourth set, giving the Knights the chance to finish things off with a strong fifth set and win a state title. It wasn't to be - the ladies fought to extra points, but ended up falling 15-17.
A last-gasp effort by Payton Hilton to save a ball close to the net failed to clear it, and the Knights were left with the bittersweet sensation of getting so close to their goal, only to have it slip away.
The ladies had a phenomenal year and an improbable run in the tournament, something that they can take solace in. They tearfully accepted their runner-up trophy as fans stuck around to congratulate the girls on a great effort.