If the Beckman fans thought the Blazers’ win over MFL MarMac was a business-like exhibition of volleyball, they saw an even better one Nov. 5 at the Sumner-Fredericksburg gym.
It was a three-game, 49-minute sweep, 25-13, 25-12, 25-7, of the Denver Cyclones in the gym at Sumner that earned the Blazers their third-straight trip to the Class 2A State Volleyball Tournament in Cedar Rapids Nov. 13. The number-two seeded Blazers (40-8) will face No. 7 Van Buren County (32-4) at 2 p.m. on court two in the U.S. Cellular Center.
“I was a little nervous before game one,” admitted coach Todd Troutman. “You never really know how a team is going to react. But I did tell the girls that Denver, and not to put them down at all, was the worst team we had ever lost to and we were the best team they had ever beaten. So it was time to show them Blazer volleyball.”
Show them was exactly what the team did. Nerves may have affected the beginning of the game for both teams, though the Blazers led 2-0, 4-2, 6-3, 10-5 with a lot of Denver mis-hits in that mix. They were up 14-8 when the Cyclones went on a mini-run, cutting the margin to 14-12 on a kill and two aces from Allison Bonnette. But Kiersten Schmitt’s block sent the ball to their side and Jada Wills took the service line. The senior, as she has done several times this season, held that line, for 10 straight points, moving them to game point with the help of an ace, blocks and kills from Schmitt and Kylee Rueber.
Her final serve hit the net but the Cyclones drilled a long ball and it was game one, Blazers. “After that first game, I was relaxed,” added Troutman. “I knew the girls were mentally into this match and I had no worries.”
Game two began with a bigger Blazer lead, 7-2 and the Cyclones never got a whole lot closer. It was 12-9 when Ashley Engelken reached the service line. It was 21-9 when she left it, collecting on the way two aces, two Wills kills, blocks from McDermott, Wills and Keeley Schmitt. A hit that went too far from Kiersten Schmitt ended the run, but McDermott and Keeley Schmitt put up another block to regain serve, one negated when Keeley Schmitt was called for a net violation. A Denver ace put them at their final point, but another Denver mis-hit, a Wills-Rueber block and Kiersten Schmitt tip ended the game.
Game three was even more all-Blazers. They led 2-1 when Wills pounded down another of her 12 kills on the night. Makayla Koelker took serve, Wills added a kill, Koelker an ace and Kiersten Schmitt a kill and it was 6-1. A couple of long Blazer hits cut it to 6-3 but Chloe Ungs put down a bomb to give the service line back to Wills and you all know what happens when she gets to serve. Before the smoke cleared, it was 15-3. Engelken served out the game when it was 20-6 and Kiersten Schmitt put down the final kill.
“It’s so great to be going back to state,” glowed McDermott, the lone returning starter from last year’s semi-final team. “This year was different in that we are not all seniors, we are a way-younger team but we are a team.”
Wills said, “There’s no other group of girls I would rather be going to state with than these guys. They are great. It’s just unbelievable to be going back my senior year.” (Wills transferred from Hempstead.) “We brought our very best game tonight to stop their best player and we did it.”
Senior Ungs added, “This feels amazing. This is a great group of girls who came in pretty much fresh, with Paige being the only returning starter, and worked so hard to get here.”
Fellow classmate Engelken said, “I was with the team last year too, and it is so much better to be on the floor playing and being a real part of the win. This is an accomplishment for us.”
Individual stats for the team include: serving — Wills 22-of-23, Engelken 16-of-17, McDermott 11-of-11, Koelker 11-of-12, Hogan 6-of-6, Wessels 4-of-4; aces — Wills four, Engelken three, Hogan and Koelker one; kills — Wills 12, Kiersten Schmitt seven, Rueber, McDermott and Ungs four, Haley LeGrand one; blocks — Wills and Rueber three, McDermott and Kiersten Schmitt two, Ungs and Keeley Schmitt one; digs — Hogan 20, Engelken nine, Wills eight, Kiersten Schmitt six, Ungs two, Koelker and Keeley Schmitt one; assists — Koelker 19, Kiersten Schmitt nine, Wessels, Rueber, and Keeley Schmitt one.