It may have taken five games to do it, but the Beckman volleyball team earned a return trip to the Iowa High School State Volleyball Tournament. The Blazers topped Wapsie Valley, Oct. 27, at Independence, 25-20, 25-16, 17-25, 23-25, 15-9. They face perennial power Western Christian at about 4 p.m. Nov. 2 in Cedar Rapids.

The deciding game was more like the first two games the Blazers played that night. They began with a Kam Klas ace, added a Kiersten Schmitt kill and got a four-hit call on the Warriors to lead 3-0. When Klas served into the net, it was 3-1, but the ball came back quickly on a Jenna Lansing kill. When leading Warrior hitter Lydia Imbrogno hit long, they led 5-1. Lansing returned the favor but Schmitt got it back with a kill. That began a string of three points on her serve, including her kill, one by Klas and a tip from Wessels and they led 9-3. Wessels took serve but it was stymied when Schmitt returned one too far, 10-6. Warrior Brooklyn Etringer answered with one more too far to put Osterhaus on the service line and Lansing gave them point 12 with a kill, forcing a Wapsie timeout.

It worked too well when Osterhaus served out of bounds and the Blazers were called for four touches, 12-8. But Klas pounded one down for 13-8 before serving long, 13-9. Schmitt took 14 with a solid kill and Lansing aced the Warriors for the match-winner.

Coach Todd Troutman added, “After the coin toss for game five, and finding out we had serve, I had to fill in the lineup. When I got to the locker room door, Coach Rahe met me and said, ‘They are ready.’ I simply stepped in the room and said, ‘Let’s go do this.’

“Kam started out with three great serves in that tough pressure-filled situation and got us a 3-0 lead. They sided out and we got it right back with a great kill from Kiersten and just kept rolling from there. Our serving was outstanding and even though we missed three in that game alone, we were causing them a lot of trouble passing and our hitters were putting the ball down as well as we had all night.

“Kam had a couple of huge kills down the line and Kiersten showed why she is one of the top players in the state. Jenna swung so well and her serving was really the difference in the match. I could come with examples of huge plays from everyone for the night. They stepped up in a situation where a lot of teams don’t and showed a toughness I love to see.”

No one watching the first two games from the Beckman side would have thought their Blazers would have been forced to a five-game match. They took control of a tight first game on Lansing’s service, going from a 10-6 deficit to a 12-10 lead. Wapsie wrestled it back when Schmitt went long, 13-12 but returned the favor with Emma Jones’ shot. The Blazers edged ahead16-15, then 17-16, 18-17 before two net calls on Imbrogno and her shot out of bounds put the Blazers up 21-18. Imbrogno and Kalyn Rosengarten combined for a block but Schmitt came back with back-to-back kills to put them at 23-19. The teams traded mis-hits, 24-20 and the Blazers took it with another Imbrogno net call.

Coach Todd Troutman explained, “We started out really slow for us as we made a number of uncharacteristic mental errors and literally, watched balls land between two players. We were fortunate enough to climb back into the game and when we finally tied it and Wapsie took a timeout, we told the girls that we really hadn’t even started playing yet and the game was tied, so get out there and take it. We started hitting some serves and got our offense going for a nice win.”

Game two was much quicker. The Blazers went up 7-4 with a tip and kill from Klas and stayed there, 12-7, 15-9, 16-11, before reeling off three straight on a Schmitt kill and ace and a Klas block for a 19-11 lead. Another Schmitt kill ended it.

“Game two was the game we really started getting on a roll and making plays on offense and defense,” added Troutman. “I felt like we were really taking control of the match. We pulled away for a convincing win and we talked between games about staying focused and not relaxing and letting Wapsie get on a roll.”

Then the third game happened. It looked like some other team had stolen Blazer jerseys and taken over, as the Warriors scored the first four points, three on Blazer mistakes, then went up 8-2, 10-3 and built a 17-5 lead on a mix of mistakes and their own kills. Finally, Schmitt got a kill to go down, but Becca Platte matched it. Klas threw one down, but Hannah Knight tipped one and Lansing went long, 20-7. When Platte hit into the net, it began a comeback for the Blazers to get them to 20-12, using a kill and tip from Schmitt and a Lansing kill. But the margin was too much.

Shelby Pirc said about the game, after the match, “We kind of like to keep things exciting.”

Troutman wasn’t as easy about it. “Game three started with them serving and the first serve we passed right up to get a great kill from Jenna, but unfortunately got called for a bad ball handling violation. That kind of started a string of a few hitting errors putting us down 4-5 points right away. We seemed to play a little tense the rest of that game and would catch up a few, then give a few away, while Wapsie put together a very nice game.”

Game four began with ties until the Warriors went up 8-5. Osterhaus stuck one and Knight went long to cut that to 8-7. Wapsie went on a five-point run that included two aces from Platte and a Knight kill to lead 14-9. They grew that to 16-10, then 18-10. The teams traded points but the eight-point margin remained, 21-13, when Osterhaus put down another ball and took service to force a couple of Warriors mistakes, 21-16. A called four touches made it 22-16 Wapsie but Lansing and Schmitt got successive balls to go down, 22-18. A Knight tip, 23-18, was matched by another Schmitt kill, 23-19, to put Lansing on the line. She delivered two Schmitt kills and an over-the-line ball for the Warriors, 23-22, before Imbrogno pounded a kill for 24. A missed Warrior serve made it 24-23 but Imbrogno earned another kill to end it and set up the winner-take-all final game.

“Game four started out as a repeat of game three and we started struggling in all aspects of the game. Our passing started moving Leah off the net which made it tough for her to get the ball to the hitters in a good position for aggressive swings. Wapsie built up a lead of like 20-12 and had all the momentum. But to our girls’ credit, they really locked in and started playing some really good volleyball. We were out of timeouts so they just had to keep locked in and play each point as they could and things started to turn our way. We battled back to close to 24-23 but ended up losing.”

The Blazers were ecstatic after the win. Hogan said, “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling. All the work and lifting this summer paid off.” Klas added, “It’s so exciting. We’ve been thinking about this for a year and took motivation from last year’s loss.” Schmitt said, “We let up in that third game and I was a little worried. But coach said to just lock it in and focus and we started doing that in the fourth, through to the fifth.” Lansing added, “This (court) is my happy place. I try to give that to the team whenever I’m on the floor, I just totally love this game.” Wessels said, “We just have to trust each other. This win is overwhelming and so exciting.” And Osterhaus chimed in, “This is indescribable. After that third game, we just kept pushing and took some momentum into the fourth and fifth.”

Troutman concluded,” It is going to be a tremendous challenge ahead of us in Cedar Rapids, but I like the makeup of this team.”

Beckman's leaders were: serving — Schmitt 17-of-17, Wessels 11-of-11, Osterhaus 12-of-13, Hogan 11-of-12, Lansing 25-of-27, Klas 18-of-21; aces — Lansing four, Klas and Schmitt one; blocks — Osterhaus, Klas and Pirc two, Schmitt and Lansing one; digs — Hogan 31, Wessels 18, Schmitt 15, Reese Osterhaus 12, Klas eight, Lauren Osterhaus three; assists —Wessels 46, Hogan four, Reese and Lauren Osterhaus and Schmitt one.