CEDAR RAPIDS – For the fourth time in six years, the Sioux Center Warriors traveled to Cedar Rapids for the state volleyball tournament.
This time, they’re staying an extra night.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Sioux Center senior outside hitter Alexis Toering, who recorded 12 kills and 10 digs as No. 1 Sioux Center advanced to the Class 3A state semifinals with a 25-17, 20-25, 25-18, 25-18 win over No. 13 Red Oak Thursday at the U.S. Cellular Center.
“We’ve got to look forward to (Thursday’s) game, be ready for that and just rest, more than anything tonight.”
After three previous quarterfinal ousters, Sioux Center (33-5) will play sixth-ranked Osage (26-9) in a 2A semifinal Thursday at 2 p.m.
“It totally means a lot to us because we have been kind of carrying this heavy thing on our back,” said sophomore outside hitter Makennah Traver, who contributed 11 kills and 11 digs. “We just wanted to prove everyone wrong that we could.”
After the teams split the first two games, Red Oak appeared ready to uncork some of the magic that got them past fifth-ranked Gilbert in the Oct. 30 regional final and into the state tournament.
Led by Bellevue (Neb.) University recruit Sierra Athen, the Tigers possessed a 16-13 lead in the pivotal Game 3 when Sioux Center Coach Julie Oldenkamp called timeout.
“We talked a lot about winning the hustle plays and just trying to get that momentum back on our side,” Oldenkamp said.
A kill by Sioux Center senior setter Jordyn VanMaanen tied the game at 16-16, and all of a sudden the Warriors had juice.
“Point 16-16 was a huge one for us, a hustle play, it had a lot of good things that we talk about,” Oldenkamp said. “I just felt like that was a turning point in the match for us. The girls just had that smile back on their face and it was like, ‘OK, we got this. We can do this.’”
Sioux Center closed the game with 12 of 14 points and won, 25-18. In the decisive fourth game, the Warriors ran away from a one-point game with a 15-9 closing burst.
“We had made of some of our own mistakes, both teams did, in that second set,” Toering said. “Coming into the third set, we know we had to fix those and talk about it as a team and all work together.”
Senior outside hitter Camryn Cleveringa led Sioux Center with 14 digs and 16 kills, one of three Warriors in double figures in kills.
“We are a balanced team,” Oldenkamp said. “Any given night it can be a different kill leader depending on the matchups and what the other teams will give us as far as defense. That makes us tough to defend.”
VanMaanen distributed 35 assists and added 11 digs.
Athen collected a match-high 18 kills for Red Oak (23-14).
“We just have a really young team and I feel like the nerves just got the best of us,” Athen said. “Just to get that whole experience with the big crowd, I feel like we just got all tense and didn’t play our whole game.”
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