The Tuesday Tea From the Iowa State Volleyball Tournament
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As I write this, I’m watching the PV vs. Dowling Class 5A state semifinal. Iowa truly has the best state tournament from start to finish. I will head back to Wisconsin to cover the state tournament in Green Bay and…
As I write this, I’m watching the PV vs. Dowling Class 5A state semifinal. Iowa truly has the best state tournament from start to finish. I will head back to Wisconsin to cover the state tournament in Green Bay and I won’t sugar coat – the Iowa experience is just better for all involved.
These wrap ups after a day of the state tournament are what readers don’t see in the box score. I have the privilege to be on the floor and these are the thoughts throughout about 12 hours of volleyball. This doesn’t get old and I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to cover this event.
See you at the Iowa Top 250 on December 10
The Mount Vernon Middles
, the Louisville commit for Mount Vernon is the one a lot of teams prepare for. She’s the top prospect in our Prep Dig Iowa Class of 2025 rankings. She’s amazing. I knew what I was going to watch when she stepped on the court. What I didn’t know about were the middle blockers for Mount Vernon in and Caliana Whitaker are relentless with their block to transition. Whitaker had four kills, hitting .250 and Schurbon had 7 kills, hitting .333. Whitaker had five block assists while the Mount Vernon team had 12 as a team. What this shows is that they are closing the block, sticking to their defensive assignments, and it is much easier to play defense in the back row when the blockers are where they are supposed to be. I know middles don’t get a lot of glory, but they sure do a lot of dirty work.
Brutal Schedules Prevail
Seeing Union as a seven seed was a little scary. Union has played 50 matches. Of those 50 there are numerous that are against ranked teams (12 of their matches are against state tournament opponents). They also played in the state tournament last year here (and plenty of years prior). Gracie Klima had 16 kills and 16 digs while setterdished out 35 assists in three sets. Dena Robb was a force in the middle with 11 kills, hitting .381 and four solo blocks. The NICL had quite a day with Union, Denver, Dike-New Hartford, and Grundy Center all advancing to the semifinals. The majority of matches in the NICL are state tournament type matches.
of Hinton is a special talent. She’s the top prospect in the Prep Dig Iowa Class of 2026. She is a six rotation middle where she makes some difficult skills look very easy. She’s hitting harder, jumping higher, and continues to improve each time she takes the court. Hinton could very easily go to her every play, but they don’t need to with their balanced attack. They made quick work of Aplington-Parkersburg in a sweep on Tuesday with organized defense and a dose of the Kovarna girls. is the veteran setter who had 30 assists along with 5 kills, Karlyn Kovarna was a consistent threat at the net with four kills and chipped in with some solo blocks. Avery Burgad was on fire with seven kills, hitting .545. As a team Hinton had 55 digs to A-P’s 33, with and Carlene Hicklin combined for 31 digs.
The future of UNI volleyball was looking real strong at Xtream on Tuesday with five commits in the house. The Dike-New Hartford/Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont match had four alone.and of DNH, and of EBF, and of Sumner-Fred were all in the 2A field. UNI has built a successful program off Iowa athletes, small town Iowa athletes who are multi-sport stars. Bixby and Petersen have won three state basketball titles while the Shafer twins played at the state basketball tournament last winter.
Just Keep Swinging…and Digging
My camera and phone were on their last life of battery so I was able to put them down and watch the Carroll-Kuemper vs. Grundy Center match and enjoy. There was so much emotion, long rallies, back and forth, it was the state tournament match everyone claps for at the end. The Carroll-Kuemper libero, Kaylie Simons had 22 digs, most of them coming off the swing of. Speaking of Willis, I could tell she was doing everything she could at the end of set four, I was hoping she wasn’t going to cramp because I knew she had a ton of swings while playing six rotations. 82 swings in a four set match. Unreal. The duo of and , who had 38 assists, 10 digs, and 6 kills will play another day.
I knew the Shafer twins, I’ve seen them play plenty of times. I did not know about the Mullihan twins from Denver. What a day.had nine kills, hitting .292 while had seven kills on nine attempts with zero errors. Good day to be a Mullihan and a Denver Cyclone. This group of youngsters came out very prepared and played fearless. Senior leads the way with experience, but the rest of the team has plenty of sophomore and freshman talent.
Tale of Two Cities
I rode my sixth full RAGBRAI this past summer. Coming back to Coralville to the scene of a 110 degree day and a severe storm back in July was a beautiful memory 🙂 One of the many things I love about RAGBRAI is getting to the small towns and when they advance to the state tournament I can say I bought a piece of pie from their school stand raising money for a school trip, or even found some AC in their public library. The Newell-Fonda vs. Ankeny Christian match I couldn’t help but think about RAGBRAI and the difference between the two towns. My mom is from Fonda and I’m familiar with the Catholic church in town from funerals and the ball fields we would go to growing up, and obviously a couple stops there on RAGBRAI. Ankeny was a pass through town this summer and what a sprawling community. The housing developments just kept going. To have schools from these two communities find themselves at the state tournament is unique in its own way. Don’t sleep on the small towns and small schools my friends.