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IOWA CITY — A state-tournament berth is a special achievement, regardless of school, regardless of sport.
For the Iowa City West volleyball team, a mere appearance at the U.S. Cellular Center won’t suffice in November.
“We want to make state and create some noise,” Coach Randy Dolson said. “Last year, we were a little inexperienced. You’ve got to go through that a couple times.
“We want to make some noise. If we win that first-round match, it’s anybody’s game.”
A Class 5A quarterfinalist in 2014 and 2015, West returns nearly its entire roster with hopes of a deep run this season. All seven starters are back.
But not all seven are healthy.
Ali Tauchen, a 5A honorable-mention all-state selection, suffered a torn ACL during basketball season.
“I can do everything in practice except for block when somebody’s on the other side of the net,” said Tauchen, a 6-foot senior middle hitter who averaged 2.43 digs per set. “I don’t think I’ll be able to play Tuesday (in a season-opener at Cedar Rapids Prairie), but I hope to be back in a week or two.”
Emily Halverson (6-2, senior, middle hitter) and Chandler Haight (5-9, junior, outside hitter) are slowed by a sprained thumb and a sprained ankle, respectively.
Tauchen, Halverson, outside hitter Emma Norris and setter Maddie Fay are part of a senior class that consists of nine members, a high number for a team from any class.
“It’s really cool. We’re all so close. We’ve built a family friendship,” said Norris, who has committed to play at Western Illinois.
The Women of Troy return about 96 percent of their kill output from a year ago.
“We’ve got enough juice offensively,” Dolson said. “If we serve and pass well ... we’ve got good depth at every position.”
Norris said, “Our offense is going to be amazing. I think we’ll be an intimidating team.”
Dolson is beginning his third season at West. He left one traditionally strong program in Dubuque Hempstead to join another. West won state titles in 2010 and 2011.
“You go through my history, and about every seven years, I look for new challenges,” he said. “West has such a good tradition, and such a strong academic reputation.”
The deck has been reshuffled in the Mississippi Valley Conference, and West appears to be the favorite in the Mississippi Division, with Linn-Mar and Dubuque Wahlert the most likely challengers.
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Challenges will come early and often. After Tuesday’s Prairie match, the Women of Troy compete in the MVC-MAC Challenge at Pleasant Valley on Thursday, travel to Linn-Mar in their first MVC divisional match Aug. 30, meet some of the best CIML teams at a tournament at West Des Moines Valley on Sept. 3, then host Iowa City High for The Spike on Sept. 6.
“Our first goal is to win The Spike,” Norris said. “Then we want to earn a regional bye.”
November will be here before you know it. The Women of Troy are tired of one-and-done at state.
“We’re all super excited,” Halverson said. “We think this is our year.”
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