North Tama defends title in own tournament by defeating G-R
TRAER — Both the Class 1A No. 5 North Tama and Gladbrook-Reinbeck volleyball teams looked unstoppable for the first four matches of the North Tama Volleyball Tournament on Saturday, with neither team dropping a set on their way to a meeting in the championship finals.
The Redhawks came out blazing against the Rebels in set one of the finals, jumping out to a 19-0 lead before eventually taking the first set 21-4.
G-R didn’t roll over and accept defeat, however, as it hung with North Tama through the second set point-by-point until eventually pulling away and winning, 21-19, to force a decisive third set.
Once again the Redhawks proved why they are one of the premier teams in 1A in the third, dominating the Rebels in a 15-6 decision to win their home tournament for a second-straight season.
North Tama libero Takoa Kopriva said the girls weren’t worried after dropping the second set to Gladbrook-Reinbeck — their only let loss of the day — they just knew they had to get back to what they do.
“That was the last set we were going to play, it’s either win or lose,” Kopriva said of the message before the final set. “Let’s have it be a win.”
Redhawks head coach Channing Halstead said the girls might have taken it a bit easy after winning so handily in the first set, and the Rebels aren’t a team to be taken lightly.
“We just got a little relaxed then kind of figured out ‘oh crap, we do have to play,'” Halstead said. “I told them in between matches, I vividly remember that Katie went back and missed her first serve, then Grace went back and missed her first serve. Those are two of our better servers, and I think Carissa missed her first serve too. Those are momentum killers, especially when you have some of your better servers going back. You can’t have that.”
Service is what led to the Redhawks (10-1) kicking off with a 19-0 run in the first set, with Kopriva pinning G-R back with some precise placements.
“Takoa’s serving was so cool to watch,” Halstead said. “Her game knowledge and her smarts and her placement, that was really cool to see.”
Kopriva had three aces in the finals win and was 26-for-26 in service. When she wasn’t leading from behind the line, she was in her normal role as the defensive stalwart for the Redhawks with a team-high 13 digs, most on hard hits by the Rebels’ standout sophomore Saari Kuehl.
“I really thought that Takoa was one of the best players in the gym today,” Halstead said. “She handled the hit from [G-R sophomore Saari Kuehl] like no one you saw all day. She knew that second set we lost our serve-receive a little bit but she just said ‘I got it, it’s not a big deal,’ and fixed it. She was pretty studly I thought today.”
Katie Kopriva got it done offensively to complement Takoa’s defense, finishing with 11 kills on 27 attempts. Karly Jans was next with six kills, while Abby DeBoef had four.
Halstead said it was particularly good to see Jans get back into the swing of things in general on the day.
“We have really been working on her, not that Karly hasn’t been playing well, but we’ve been working on trying to push and get her confidence back up this week,” Halstead said. “We tried a lot of things yesterday and I don’t think she was very happy with me, but ultimately she would agree with me that it paid off today.”
DeBoef came up big in North Tama’s championship semifinal win over North Fayette Valley, and Halstead said she is starting to get a feel for the court.
“Abby almost led us in kills that North Fayette Valley match, she was up there,” Halstead said. “She’s getting better with the out of system stuff all around.”
Next up the Redhawks will have their toughest task of the season, facing off with 1A No. 1 Janesville at home on Thursday evening.
“Leaving today I feel a little bit better about our game smarts and our aggressiveness with serving,” Halstead said. “Those are things we are definitely going to have to use on Thursday to try and throw them out of system. It’ll be a fun matchup, that’s one of the best teams we will face all year so I hope we can get out to our highest level.”
Despite the loss in the finals, it was a good day for the Rebels as they went 4-1 with a victory over 1A No. 8 Montezuma in the championship semifinals.
G-R head coach Paula Kelley said she was more than thrilled with how her girls showed, especially after a tough three-set sweep by BCLUW on Thursday where each set was decided by just two points.
“We went 4-1, I mean you can’t complain with a 4-1 tournament and losing to the home champs,” Kelley said. “It was fantastic, we started clicking even better than we did just two days ago. I thought we had a lot more times that we were clicking together as a team today.”
The Rebels are blessed with a great hitter in Kuehl, but there was a concerted effort to get other girls involved in the offense throughout the tournament. Haleigh Berendes actually led in kills in the final match against North Tama with six, while she, Meriah Wittgreve, Rachael Scarf and Justina Eggers all saw more touches offensively.
“That’s what we want to do, try to balance that out a little bit so we can take the pressure off Saari a little bit,” Kelley said. “Then the blocking is going to be a little bit easier for her to get through, she was a little frustrated with North Tama today because they were pretty much on her a lot, so if we can spread that out a little bit and give her some more room when it’s her turn, then we want to do that.”
The Rebels swept their way through Pool B play with a 3-0 record, taking out Meskwaki (21-7, 21-16), Dunkerton (21-15, 21-12) and North Fayette Valley (21-16, 21-15) along the way.
“The other three teams kind of beat each other up and I felt like our hitting really put them out of their system so they really didn’t get a chance to do a lot of hitting at us,” Kelley said. “Our serving was phenomenal today, not just not having the misses we had the other night but we had a lot of ace serves all day today. Coming into today we really talked about that and worked on it in practice.”
After a performance like the Rebels had today, including taking a set off of a top-5 team, Kelley said her girls have a new outlook on the rest of the season.
“Confidence-wise, we beat North Tama. That’s bigger than anything,” she said. “Not beating BCLUW in one of those games kind of put a little bit of something on their shoulders, and today it just kind of showed that we can play with anybody. When we play our game, we can play with anybody.”
Meskwaki was also in on the action in Traer and finished 1-4 on the day. The Warriors’ lone win came against North Fayette Valley, where they won in three sets, 21-16, 21-23, 15-13.
Meskwaki had two three-set matches of the day, falling in the consolation semifinals to eventual consolation-champion West Central, 14-21, 21-11, 15-8, and head coach Sarah Murphy said her girls have already come a long way in a short time this season.
“Last weekend we played at home and had some tough competition, a little bit bigger schools and a couple of ranked teams,” Murphy said. “That was kind of a temperature check for us, but we were able to spend a really good week of practice and this is the best that we’ve looked. It was a little bit of a roller coaster day for us but overall I’m happy because you don’t find out stuff like this about yourself until you come to tournaments like this.”
North Tama Tournament
West Central def. BGM, 21-18, 21-17
North Tama def. West Central, 21-11, 21-18
North Tama def. Montezuma, 21-17, 21-19
Montezuma def. BGM, 21-12, 21-11
North Tama def. BGM, 21-6, 21-10
Montezuma def. West Central, 18-21, 21-16, 15-13
Gladbrook-Reinbeck def. Meskwaki, 21-7, 21-16
North Fayette Valley def. Dunkerton, 21-15, 21-14
Meskwaki def. North Fayette Valley, 21-16, 21-23, 15-13
Gladbrook-Reinbeck def. Dunkerton, 21-15, 21-12
Gladbrook-Reinbeck def. North Fayette Valley, 21-16, 21-15
Dunkerton def. Meskwaki, 21-12, 24-22
West Central def. Meskwaki, 14-21, 21-11, 15-8
Dunkerton def. BGM, 21-13, 21-14
West Central def. Dunkerton, 21-8, 21-14
North Tama def. North Fayette Valley, 21-3, 21-8
Gladbrook-Reinbeck def. Montezuma, 21-12, 21-15
North Tama def. Gladbrook-Reinbeck, 21-4, 19-21, 15-6