Redhawks making maiden voyage
NEVADA — The North Tama volleyball program is traveling in a new flight pattern. The Redhawks are flying east this winter.
Eighth-ranked North Tama notched the first state volleyball berth in school history on Tuesday night at Nevada High School, sweeping aside Coon Rapids-Bayard, 25-10, 25-18, 25-18, in the Class 1A Region 4 finals to advance to next week’s tournament at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.
Lydia Schafer, one of only two seniors on the Redhawk roster, put down the final point to send North Tama volleyball one step farther than ever before.
“It was unbelievable, we’ve been working so hard to get to state and right when that ball dropped it was just the best feeling ever,” said sophomore libero Takoa Kopriva.
“Pure happiness,” junior Karly Jans said.
The Redhawks (29-7) will face No. 2 Springville (38-2) on Nov. 8 in an 8 p.m. quarterfinal on Court 2, but the next step was a distant thought immediately after taking the longest stride.
“Everybody goes into every year and state is always the goal, but I didn’t try to take that approach this year,” said North Tama head coach Channing Halstead. “I tried to take the approach that losing is not OK. That was my quote to start the year. You’re not going out there to be the bottom half of 1A, you’re going out there to be the top of 1A, and it was buying into that and believing in themselves.”
After marching the comeback trail in Thursday’s regional semifinal win over Montezuma, the Redhawks had all the confidence in the world. Coming back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the No. 11 Braves, North Tama carried the momentum over to the opening set of Tuesday’s contest with unranked Coon Rapids-Bayard (21-14).
The Redhawks rocketed out to leads of 11-4 and 18-5 before finishing off the Crusaders 25-10 in the first set, fortifying an already undaunted North Tama lineup.
“Our Montezuma match was epic, there’s no other word,” said Halstead. “After that game I felt we had enough momentum going that we were going to be OK no matter the scenario tonight. We had been through the worst of the worsts in that game and the highest of the highs. I thought it was a good experience for us coming into tonight — it gave us a lot more confidence.”
The Crusaders tried to resist throughout the second set, never leading but fighting back for a 9-all tie after a pair of unforced errors by North Tama. Katie Kopriva recorded back-to-back kills to get the Redhawks started again, but the small surge sputtered immediately.
Halstead, having been on the wrong end of a 2-0 lead in an eventual a five-set loss in her high school finale, reminded her squad to play hard to the end.
“I think we just got a little bit relaxed, we got a little too comfortable and I think they needed a friendly reminder that they needed to get their heads out of their butts and they had two more games they had to win,” said Halstead. “They’re used to that from me, I don’t think they’d expect anything else. I usually don’t coddle them too much.”
It riled up the Redhawk student section decked out in Halloween costumes and got the desired result on the court, too. Takoa Kopriva served up a five-point run that included a pair of kills from sophomore Katie Kopriva, and North Tama finished off the second set 25-18.
“We tried to replicate what Montezuma did those first two games and just couldn’t get it going,” said Coon Rapids-Bayard head coach Rich Baker. “North Tama kept the pressure on us really well with hitting their spots, keeping the ball in play and aggressive serving, so hat’s off to them. They were very good.
“We stayed close and then we’d give up one big run and that seemed our MO when we play big schools or schools of this caliber. They just put together some nice runs we couldn’t keep up with.”
The same pattern held true in the third set, as three-straight kills by CRB middle hitter Katelyn Winnett helped the Crusaders stay close early, but a five-point run served up by North Tama sophomore setter Isabel Sierra made it a 16-9 Redhawk advantage that never again shrunk below three.
Schafer saw the opportunity to put down an errant CRB pass and finished it off for the final point, sending North Tama into uncharted territory.
“Just holding that banner was like the best feeling ever,” said Katie, “knowing that we made history. We just kept believing the whole way that we could make it to the U.S. Cellular Center.”
Jans and Katie Kopriva continued their offensive assault, compiling 13 kills apiece to lead North Tama. Schafer had five kills, including the finale, and freshman Abby Deboef racked up all four of her kills during a 7-0 Redhawk rally in the opening set.
Sierra totaled 32 assists and pitched in a pair of kills and two service aces as well. Katie added an ace and teamed with fellow sophomore Carlie Gorder on a pair of blocks.
Coon Rapids-Bayard was led by Emily Baker with eight kills, Winnett had six and Taylor Pevestorf finished with five kills. The Rolling Valley Conference champions, who had won five matches in a row, were unable to make their program’s second trip to state.