From the moment the Western Dubuque volleyball team walked off the court holding the 2019 state runner-up trophy, the group of young Bobcats quickly got together and pledged they would do everything they could to earn a return performance on the big stage at the Alliant Energy PowerHouse in Cedar Rapids.

Well, the Bobcats’ trip back to the state volleyball tournament has finally been earned after they disposed of Dubuque Wahlert Catholic (8-18) in three straight sets to win the Class 4A Region 7 championship in Epworth, Oct. 27.

“We prepared all week for this. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Madison Maahs, the Bobcats’ junior setter. “Every time we play Wahlert it’s a tough match, but we knew if we came out and focused on our side we’d be OK. We came out and played Bobcat volleyball and when we do that we are really hard to beat.”

The Bobcats (24-10) were slow to start, but once they got their offense going, Wahlert knew they were in for a long day. Western Dubuque earned a side out to get the serve up 6-5. Ella Meyer’s ace on her first serve sparked the fire and the Bobcats’ talented front line of attackers took over from there with Meredith Bahl’s loud kill forcing Walhert to take a timeout, down 11-5, but the damage was already done. Slowly the Bobcats continued to pull away from Wahlert, but when Meg Besler’s crushing kill put Western Dubuque up 20-9 it allowed them to cruise to a 25-13 win in game one.

“We knew this was going to be tough. I don’t care what anyone’s record is when it’s a Wahlert and Western Dubuque match-up, everyone’s going to bring their ‘A’ game,” said Megan Scherrman, the Bobcats’ head coach. “We worked hard all week to make sure that our girls were prepared for anything that Wahlert was going to throw at them. I think they did a good job of buying into our game plan.”

In the second set, it was the Killer B’s, Bahl and Besler, who continued to put the ball down as the Bobcats created distance from the Golden Eagles. Mia Kunnert’s service error gave the ball back to the Bobcats and Bahl wasted little time in blasting a missile for a kill to make the lead 12-8. On the next point, the longest rally of the match, Bahl racked up another powerful kill that seemed to take a little life out of Wahlert.

“A month ago, we weren’t winning those long rallies,” said Schermann. “Since we got into the postseason, we have been winning those long rallies. We’re transitioning well and have cut down on our unforced errors and I think that’s a big difference for us right now.”

Wahlert continued to fight, but it just wasn’t enough as back-to-back kills by Libby Lansing and Maddie Harris put the Bobcats up 19-12. The teams exchanged side outs until the Bobcats closed out the second set 25-17.

Besler flexed her muscles early in the third set showing how badly she wanted to move on in the state tournament. Her four kills and a block restarted the Bobcats’ fire as they jumped to a 10-2 start with Wahlert beginning to unravel. They did manage to win three points in a row, the Golden Eagles’ longest streak of the match, to get within six points at 17-11 but they couldn’t get closer as the Bobcats took the third set 25-18 to win the match.

“This just means everything to me that we earned our ticket to state for my senior year,” said Besler, the lone starting senior for the Bobcats. “We’ve worked so hard for this opportunity to get back where we were last year, and we’re looking forward to doing some damage there again this time. State is a great place to end the season.”

“That was so much fun and it brought back so many memories of last year going to state. We just knew that we really wanted it more. We played the game that we know,” said Bahl, who was named to the all-tournament team last year at state. “We’ve been practicing so hard and we play how we practice. We play every point like it’s state championship point.”

So far in the playoffs, the Bobcats have had no trouble taking care of championship point in their two matches. They know their road back to the state title is filled with talented teams. The first team they face is Sergeant Bluff-Luton (23-6), the same team who beat them in the Class 4A final last year.

“After we settled into the match we just played our kind of game and that’s what you gotta do it you wanna win,” said Maahs. “When our passing is on it makes my job easier. I’ve got five hitters to go to and they are all hammers. They all can put the ball away. I like the way we’re playing. So right now our goal is to win that championship.”

WD’s leaders were: kills — Besler 15, Bahl 10, Lansing seven, Maddie Harris five, Maci Steffen one; assists — Maahs 35; digs — Meyer 19, Maahs 13, Harris 12, Bahl nine, Natalie Ulrichs seven, Steffen three, Besler and Lansing two; blocks — Steffen four, Belser three, Lansing two, Bahl, Harris, and Maahs one; serves — Ulrichs 12-of-12, Harris 11-of-11, Maahs 10-of-10, Bahl 15-of-16, Meyer 14-of-15; aces — Steffen two, Bahl, Meyer and Ulrichs one.