A not-so-distant history lesson gives Brett Mather valid reason for optimism.
Last year, Mount Vernon finished fourth in a stacked Wamac Conference East Division. The Mustangs got hot in mid-October, winning the conference tournament, and used that as a springboard toward an eventual state championship.
This year’s fourth-place team in the Wamac East: West Delaware. And are the Hawks capable of a similar run? You betcha.
The bracket portion of the Wamac tournament is Thursday at Mount Vernon (the high school and middle school are co-hosting the event), and it’s a typical field. Typical, as in wide-open.
“I tell you, there are some really tough first-round matches,” said Mather, head coach at West Delaware. “Marion against Mount Vernon? Holy cats, that’s a really tough one.”
Action begins at 4 p.m. at both sites.
All six teams from the East Division can be found in the eight-team championship bracket. That includes Dyersville Beckman (27-8), which went 5-0 in regular-season divisional play.
“It’s so strong from top to bottom,” Mather said. “Every night, you’ve got to come prepared.”
Beckman faces Clear Creek Amana (25-6) in the opening round. West Delaware (25-10) meets Maquoketa (13-12) in the other top-bracket match.
On the bottom half, it’s Mount Vernon (24-6) against Marion (20-10), and West Division champion Independence (22-6) taking on Solon (16-17).
Semifinals are slated for 5:45 with the championship match scheduled for around 7:30.
Like Beckman, Mount Vernon and Independence, West Delaware won both of its pool matches Monday.
“We really relied on two hitters through the majority of the season,” Mather said. “We have more balance now, and I hope that continues.”
Marquee matchups Saturday
Saturday provides two good options in the area.
Class 4A top-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier (21-5) faces 5A No. 6 Iowa City Liberty (18-2) in a Mississippi Valley Conference cross-divisional match. First serve is scheduled for 1 p.m. at North Liberty.
Liberty has won 10 consecutive matches.
Meanwhile, the closing rounds of the Tri-Rivers Conference tournament are scheduled for Bellevue Marquette.
By virtue of its West Division title, Starmont (14-11) rates as a slim favorite, with Springville (19-3), Maquoketa Valley (12-10) and Lisbon (19-4) the top challengers.
Lisbon clinched its fourth straight East Division crown Tuesday with a four-set win over Easton Valley.
“The last three, we’ve won with three distinctly different groups,” Lions Coach Lance Kamaus said. “The last two teams have been full of seniors. This year, we start four sophomores and three seniors.”
Lisbon, Starmont, Maquoketa Valley and Clinton Prince of Peace are pool hosts Thursday.
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