Your Prep Sports
LAPORTE CITY – West Branch crossed a lot of things off its preseason goal sheet this season.
Many of those checked boxes came over the last 10 days during an impressive regional run.
West Branch avenged a pair of regular season losses to rival Regina with a five-set win over th Regals in the regional quarterfinals, bounced 28-win Lisbon in five sets in the semis and reached the regional title for the first time since 2020.
The Bears came up short of accomplishing their most grandiose goal this season – a trip to the state tournament – falling to fourth-ranked Denver 23-25, 25-9, 25-16, 25-18 on Wednesday in the Class 2A, Region 7 title game at Union High School in LaPorte City.
Even in Wednesday’s loss West Branch managed to reach one final goal.
“We really wanted to create excitement, bring attention to our team and really draw fans in,” West Branch senior JaLynn Falco said. “We wanted to show everyone we are fun to watch and we bring a show to the court and that you aren’t going to be disappointed no matter the outcome. I think our big goal was just to leave something here and we definitely did that.”
Falco and fellow seniors Alyse Klinkkammer, Kylie Pickett, Emily Coleman, Claire Jarrett and Kya Montgomery were all impressive at points on Wednesday.
Fourth-ranked Denver was just more impressive.
Denver (34-10) had six players with at least six kills led by sophomore Bailey Mullihan with a match-high 12 while advancing to the state tournament for the fourth consecutive season.
“I am going to give them a lot of credit, they are good, they are good,” Falco said. “There are a lot like us, they run a fast offense, they have versatile hitters. They ran a faster offense tonight, we gave it our all.”
Denver will face North Iowa Cedar League rival Sumner-Fredericksburg (28-13) in the Class 2A quarterfinals on Tuesday at 4 p.m. at Xtream Arena in Coralville.
West Branch closed the season 18-17.
“We beat Regina in the playoffs, we made it to the regional finals, it was a huge run and I am so proud of these girls,” Klinkkammer said. “I think we did everything we could every single game, everyone put in their all.”
The West Branch seniors put on one final show on Wednesday in the opening set.
West Branch scored the first three points of the match, and had three runs of 3-0 and a 6-0 burst while jumping to an early 15-4 advantage.
“We were ready to go,” Klinkkammer said. “Practice yesterday was another amazing practice, we worked on their middle hitters, we knew they were going to be big and strong and the intensity was high for us. We tried to continue that through the whole game and it didn’t go so well but that first set, saying that we beat Denver, number four ranked in a set is incredible.”
Denver rallied back to pull even at 18-18 in the opening set but West Branch responded and made the plays late to win the opening set.
Pickett and sophomore Alyssa Vargason had back-to-back kills to give the Bears a 25-23 win.
“The first set we were playing like we’ve been playing,” West Branch coach Becky Hosier said. “We played with the confidence that we had against Lisbon.”
Denver snapped a 4-all tie in the second set with a 6-0 run and never trailed again in a 25-9 win.
The Cyclones flexed their muscle down the stretch bursting open a 10-10 tie in the third set with a 7-0 run and taking control of the fourth set with a 7-1 barrage that led to a 10-5 lead.
“We weren’t getting blocks and they have strong hitters,” Hosier said. “We knew we had to at least get touches to help our defense out and they just have a great front row.”
Denver had 17 ace serves in the four-set win on Wednesday against a West Branch team that had been stellar in serve receive in its first three postseason contests.
“We knew they were strong servers when we watched film,” Hosier said. “We knew we had to have good serve receive and if you don’t have good serve receive then you can’t execute on the ball.”
Coleman led West Branch with eight kills while Pickett and Falco each had six kills for West Branch.
“This group of seniors I feel like has given it their all,” Falco said. “We created this atmosphere of excitement around this program and there isn’t a better group to do that.
West Branch 25 9 16 18
Oskaloosa 23 25 25 25
West Branch (Kills-aces-blocks)
Alyse Klinkkammer 4-0-0, Kylie Pickett 6-1-0, Emily Coleman 8-1-2, Claire Jarrett 0-2-0, Kya Montgomery 5-0-0, JaLynn Falco 6-0-0, Alyssa Vargason 3-0-0, Madelynn Falco 0-1-0, Totals 32-5-2.
Assists – Kylie Pickett 16, Claire Jarrett 6, Madelynn Falco 1, Alyse Klinkkammer 1
Channing Johnson 6-3-0, Madeline Hildebrandt 2-0-0, Elaina Hildebrandt 11-0-0, Myia Rosecrans 6-3-0, Bailey Mullihan 12-2-0, Jessica Gergen 9-5-0, Grace Mullihan 6-4-0, Totals 52-17-0.
Assists – Channing Johnson 33, Jessica Gergen 1