CEDAR RAPIDS — Only eight teams in Iowa history have reached the state volleyball tournament more times than the Ankeny Hawkettes.
Even with 18 state-qualifier banners to its name, just two players on the 2019 Ankeny team could claim a tournament win.
“It feels great,” Ankeny senior Kaci Behrens said after the fourth-ranked Hawkettes swept No. 5 Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln, 25-20, 25-15, 25-18, in a Class 5A state quarterfinal match Tuesday at the U.S. Cellular Canter. “I am just so pumped for this team. We are really close and it is one of the best feelings in the world. Getting our first win.”
The Hawkettes’ fortunes were undoubtedly boosted when the administration coaxed Coach Dave Whims out of retirement after three years. Whims ranks second in state history with 1,018 career wins in 35 years, 14 of which were in two combined stints with Ankeny. Whims led Ankeny to the state title match eight times, winning in 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009.
“I took a whole year off,” Whims said. “Then I did some junior high at North Polk just to play around with the game. Then this opportunity came and had kind of an itch and I needed to scratch it. It has been good. I have a really good group of girls to work with.”
Whims inherited an all-state setter in Notre Dame commit Phyona Schrader and reunited with two honorable mention all-state seniors in Behrens and middle hitter Isabelle Vacek.
“We were really excited,” Schrader said of Whims’ return. “He had a successful past and he knows how to work with our team.”
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Vacek led Ankeny (37-5) with 10 kills, while Schrader added nine and paceed the team with 25 assists. Behrens posted 22 digs.
Senior Elaina Bohnet led Lincoln (38-4) — which entered the state tournament with 21 wins in a row — with eight kills.
Ankeny’s win streak is now 17 and will receive a stiff test in a state semifinal against No. 1 Cedar Falls (42-1) Thursday at 10 a.m.
Cedar Falls and Ankeny were tied, 22-22, in the first set of their matchup in the Ankeny Centennial tournament Aug. 31, before the Tigers prevailed 25-23, 25-12.
“Since we looked really good the first game, then they should be scared,” Behrens said. “I think we are a good team, so it is definitely going to be a good game.”