For a full year, this is the matchup the Belle Plaine volleyball team has wanted.
“Ever since (Springville) beat us last year (in a regional semifinal), we’ve wanted another shot,” Plainsmen Coach April Kressley said. “This has been in our minds a long time.
“This is an opportunity to step over that line, to that next level.”
Seventh-ranked Springville (26-4) stands between Belle Plaine (26-8) and its first state tournament berth in 25 years. They collide in a Class 1A regional final at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Benton Community High School, Van Horne.
It’s the lone area 1A match. No. 14 West Branch (20-12) is the last area 2A survivor; the Bears tangle with No. 2 Wilton (31-3) at West Liberty.
Winners advance to the Alliant Energy PowerHouse in downtown Cedar Rapids next week.
Springville is aiming to get there for the sixth time in the last eight years.
“Our girls aren’t afraid to meet a challenge,” Orioles Coach Claude Howard said. “They’ve had some opportunities the last couple of years to kind of give up, and they never do.
“When you make some errors, it can get in your head, but we’re getting some great leadership out of our juniors.”
All seven starters are back from Springville’s 2019 state tournament team, and all are juniors and sophomores.
“Our girls are more comfortable in our system now,” Howard said. “When we have a lot of kids touching the ball, we can be successful.”
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Howard’s daughter, sophomore setter Nia Howard has a balanced array of attackers around her, led by juniors Lauren Wilson and Savannah Nealman.
“They’re very well rounded,” Kressley said. “Their libero is very tough, and their setter is a big contributor to their offense.”
Belle Plaine counters with the hitting duo of Alyssa Tegeler and Nicholaa Phillippe.
“These kids are so coachable, and so excited to get a chance to play at this level,” Kressley said.
Wednesday's Class 2A volleyball regional finals
(All matches, 7 p.m.)
No. 14 West Branch (20-12) vs. No. 2 Wilton (31-3), at West Liberty
The River Valley Conference South Division rivals meet for the third time this season. Wilton claimed the first two encounters convincingly. The Beavers won their first 26 matches; their losses were to 5A, 4A and 3A top-10 opponents (Iowa City Liberty, Western Dubuque and West Liberty) and look to get back to state for the third straight year. West Branch is seeking its first state trip since 2015, and its fourth in nine years. The Bears defeated Mediapolis and Van Buren County to get to this point and exhibit a balanced hitting attack led by sophomore Iva Senio (2.74 kills per set). Junior hitters Carly Puffer (3.85 kills per set) and Kelsey Drake (3.78) pace Wilton. Both hit over .420. Puffer transferred from Tipton after playing on the Tigers’ 3A regional-final team last year.
Other Class 2A regional finals
Emmetsburg (18-6) vs. No. 1 Western Christian (31-9), at Hartley HMS
Lawton-Bronson (22-7) vs. No. 4 Boyden-Hull (23-7), at MOC-Floyd Valley
No. 11 Van Meter (18-3) vs. No. 9 Underwood (26-5), at West Central Valley
South Hardin (20-14) vs. No. 5 East Sac County (23-0), at Fort Dodge
Lake Mills (25-9) vs. No. 3 Dike-New Hartford (28-4), at Charles City
Grundy Center (20-17) vs. No. 6 Denver (32-5), at Waterloo West
No. 10 Hudson (28-7) vs. No. 7 Sumner-Fredericksburg (26-7), at West Delaware
Wednesday's Class 1A volleyball regional finals
(All matches, 7 p.m.)
No. 7 Springville (26-4) vs. Belle Plaine (26-8), at Van Horne
A surprise state qualifier last season, Springville carries the favorite’s tag this time around to reach its sixth state tournament in the past eight years. The entire starting lineup — a cast of juniors and sophomores — is back, led by Lauren Wilson (2.89 kills per set). Setter Nia Howard steers the ship; she’s averaging 9.05 assists per set. Her father, Coach Claude Howard surpassed the 200-win mark earlier this season; he currently stands at 215-84. Belle Plaine is after its first state appearance since 1995. The Plainsmen came back from a three-week September COVID-19 hiatus to win the South Iowa Cedar League championship, and are 20-4 since their Sept. 26 return. Alyssa Tegeler (3.72 kills per set, .416 kill rate) and Nicholaa Phillippe (3.29, .345) are Belle Plaine’s primary attackers.
Other Class 1A regional finals
Marcus MMCRU (22-5) vs. No. 3 Le Mars Gehlen (23-5), at Le Mars
Council Bluffs St. Albert (13-13) vs. No. 6 Newell-Fonda (27-3), at Denison-Schleswig
No. 13 North Butler (24-5) vs. No. 1 Janesville (27-4), at Clarksville
Stanton (25-5) vs. No. 4 Gladbrook-Reinbeck (31-2), at Norwalk
No. 11 New London (21-7) vs. No. 5 Southeast Warren (25-0), at Ottumwa
No. 9 Saint Ansgar (22-4) vs. No. 2 Wapsie Valley (19-7), at Nashua-Plainfield
WACO (26-7) vs. No. 14 Burlington Notre Dame (16-5), at Mount Pleasant
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