Class 1A second-ranked Gehlen Catholic survived a blackout on Wednesday during the Region 1 volleyball finals against Akron-Westfield and it had nothing to do with how the Jays’ supporters were dressed.

A large crowd filled each side of the gym at Sioux City Heelan High School, with the Gehlen Catholic student section and much of the Jays crowd choosing to go with all black attire for the event.

They had no idea how appropriate that was going to be.

The match was the second of a doubleheader at site. Because Western Christian and Treynor had played at 6 p.m., the Jays and the Westerners did not take the court until two hours later. The second bout had been going on for a little more than an hour when suddenly the lights in the gym went out.

The student sections on each side reacted like they were at a rock concert, turning on their cellphone lights to create beacons in the pitch darkness.

It was only totally black for less than a minute before the emergency lights came on, but those were not providing enough light to continue the match.

“Forty-two years of coaching

and I’ve never experienced a night like tonight,” said Gehlen Catholic coach Mike Meyer.

Confusion was the immediate reaction. The match was paused. At first, event officials thought they may have blown a fuse and they were attempting to contact an electrician to help them. A few phone calls later, they learned the situation was bigger. An announcement was made that roughly 2,400 people in Sioux City were without power, and the local power company was unsure how long it would take to restore it.

It just so happened that Deb Richarz, who has been serving as the supervisor of officials for the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, was at the match evaluating officials. She quickly relayed a message from the IGHSAU office that no matter how long the delay took, the match would be finished that night.

We didn’t know how long it would take,” Meyer said. “We were hearing everything from 15 minutes to an hour. We knew the girls union had told us we had to finish. We knew we had to be here for however long it might be.”

He had no problem with that decision.

“I wanted to finish it. You almost have to when you think about it. You have the referees. You have the facilities,” Meyer said. “We’re the last game. We were really the last game in the state tonight I guarantee it, but it’s not like you have many options. Obviously, it worked out. It marred the game some, but there is nothing you can do about it. It was several city blocks that lost power.”

Gehlen Catholic senior Alyssa Kolbeck said at first the Jays looked at it as a chance to reset. They had won the first two sets, but trailed 18-12 in the third when the stoppage occurred.

“We still wanted to be together as a team, act together as a team. We wanted to make sure we stayed focused,” Kolbeck said. “When we get unfocused we don’t play our best. We wanted to stay focused on the game.”

As the delay lingered, the athletes got a bit more relaxed.

“At the beginning, we were making sure we were moving around,” Kolbeck said. “As the time went on, we sat around a little bit more. When we knew that in 15 minutes it was going to get started again, we started stretching and getting our bodies warm and stuff like that.”

Jays junior setter Cadence Goebel said an unusual shared experience like this causes a team to make lasting memories.

“We did a little bit of team bonding. We went to the locker room and listened to some music and hung out with each other and prepared for the game,” Goebel said. “We talked about what we were going to do differently in the game and stuff like that.”

Meyer said the longer the delay went, the less the conversation was about the match.

“We had so much time off, they went to the locker room and just started playing the goofy little games they do,” he said. “That was good.”

Some of the elementary school age kids in the audience came down to an area near the court, found a volleyball and engaged in a rousing game of keep away. Some older students joined them. The rest of the crowd milled around, but few of them left.

The power was out about 75 minutes.

The folks at Heelan kept their sense of humor about the situation. When the power was restored, the video board operator, who was spot on at bringing up GIFs following most plays throughout the night, brought up the clip of Clark Griswold from “Christmas Vacation” when he plugs in his outdoor lights and after a bit of a spark, they finally come on in a blinding glow.

Gehlen Catholic senior Lauren Heying said the delay made it “interesting” and it became even more so when the match ended up going five sets before the Jays pulled out the win.

“Very interesting. The fact that it’s 11:25 right now is very interesting too. I normally go to bed way before this,” Heying said. “But it’s more than worth it. I’m loving every minute of this. It’s awesome. I will never forget this. This is awesome.”

Meyer said Heying was not the only one who normally would be lights out and in bed at that point on a Wednesday.

“I hope most of them are,” he said. “ I know this coach is.”

In an all’s well that ends well situation, the match is one that will live on in the halls of Gehlen Catholic and at class reunions for a long time.

“It’s going to be one I’m going to remember,” Goebel said.