The depth has declined somewhat.
But the Wamac Conference remains extremely strong at the top, and that should make Thursday’s championship round of the league volleyball tournament worth watching.
“Marion, West Delaware ... those are teams that are going to be tough to get through,” said Mount Vernon Coach Maggie Willems, who could say the same about her own squad.
The Wamac tournament concludes Thursday at Mount Vernon, while the championship portion of the River Valley Conference does likewise at Wilton.
Pool play of the Tri-Rivers Conference tournament is Thursday, with bracket action Saturday at Springville. The Mississippi Valley Conference event is a one-day deal Saturday, with Cedar Rapids Xavier and Cedar Rapids Kennedy co-hosting (Xavier has the championship bracket).
In the last few years, the Wamac tournament was a true mystery with six to eight teams harboring legitimate title hopes. This year, it’s more like three or four.
Class 3A No. 2 West Delaware (38-3), last year’s 4A state champion, has reloaded swiftly and is joined by 3A No. 3 Mount Vernon (29-6) and 4A No. 3 Marion (28-9) as the upper crust.
In the quarterfinals, which begin at 4 p.m., West Delaware faces Western Dubuque (17-11), 4A 11th-rated Independence (29-8) meets Maquoketa (15-18), Mount Vernon tangles with 3A No. 11 Dyersville Beckman (24-8) and Marion faces Center Point-Urbana (22-14).
“This will be the third time (we’ve faced Beckman), so that will be a real challenge,” Willems said. “But our kids are playing very well right now. We feet that if we control what we can control, like effort and execution, we are capable of beating anybody on any day.”
River Valley action begins at 5 p.m. Thursday, and Class 2A No. 8 North Cedar, the North Division champion, is a slight favorite. The Knights (29-5) face Monticello (15-13) in the first round.
Only two of the four South Division co-champions — No. 15 Tipton (23-8) and Wilton (29-4) — advanced to the championship bracket.
Springville, the third-rated squad in Class 1A, is a significant favorite to capture the Tri-Rivers title. The Orioles (20-7) swept their way to the West Division title. Springville, Maquoketa Valley, Bellevue Marquette and Easton Valley are pool-play hosts.
Nothing is determined yet for the MVC tournament, which is waiting on one Thursday match before slotting teams for pool play.
Led by No. 1 Cedar Falls (33-2), five teams are ranked in the top eight in 5A, plus two of the top four in 4A.
Cedar Falls is the Valley Division champion; 5A No. 5 Linn-Mar (25-8) claimed the Mississippi Division title — its first conference crown since 1980 — with a sweep of 4A No. 2 Dubuque Wahlert (18-5).
“Our kids have worked their tails off,” Lions Coach Teresa Bair said. “They felt like this was their destiny, their legacy.”
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