Ankeny Christian sweeps Sidney for first state tournament appearance
ATLANTIC, Iowa - Two terrific 30-plus win volleyball programs collided Wednesday night in the Class 1A Region 2 championship in Atlantic.
Sidney led by six seniors looked for its first state tournament appearance since it won the title in 2019 while Ankeny Christian Academy was seeking its first ever appearance after coming up short a season ago in the Region 3 final.
And on this night, it was the Eagles completing a sweep of the Cowgirls 25-23, 25-19, 25-23 to make school history.
The opening set was seemingly tied for its duration with neither team able to create separation. Miscues defined a back-and-forth first set for each side as the Eagles committed three service errors and the Cowgirls had issues receiving and returning several attacks.
Luckily for Ankeny Christian (36-3) it had sophomore Carley Craighhead to lead the charge offensively. Craighead's back-to-back kills put the Eagles up 24-23 before an ace--one of nine aces for ACA--ended the opening set.
In the second set, ACA got out to a 19-12 lead before Sidney began a short run. The Cowgirls struggled to receive serves and looked unlike themselves early in the match.
At 24-18, Kaden Payne delivered one of her team-high 16 kills to pull Sidney within one, but Craighead put another swing away for a 2-0 ACA lead in the match.
Things looked even worse for Sidney in the third set, needing a win to stay alive for a fourth set. ACA jumped out to a 10-point lead right away forcing a Sidney timeout. The lead then pushed to 19-7 as the sweep appeared imminent for the Eagles.
But Sidney (32-9) stayed composed and did what a team full of seniors is expected to do. Behind some impressive serving from Fallon Sheldon and solid attacks from Payne and Aunika Hayes, the Cowgirls climbed off the mat and rattled off seven straight points to force an ACA timeout at 19-14.
Sidney then cut the deficit to 22-20 after an Eve Brumbaugh kill and secured the momentum. With a 24-23 lead, ACA's Amanda Weathers lined up a swing that was blocked by Sheldon and Payne at the net, but it rolled to the left and out of bounds for the kill and final point of the match as Sidney's near comeback fell just short.
Craighead led the way with 19 kills for ACA as it clinched its first state tournament appearance.
For Sidney, it lost in the regional final for the second straight year and now says goodbye to an incredible group of seniors that returned it back to the 30-plus win threshold for the first time since 2019.
Senior Avery Dowling finished with 32 assists while senior Emily Hutt notched 17 digs, falling just short of 1,000 for her career.
Ankeny Christian heads to state next week with a 15-match winning streak.
Ankeny Christian (36-3): 25, 25, 25 - 3
Sidney (32-9): 23, 19, 23 - 0