DYERSVILLE — Dyersville Beckman has been on a mission this season.
The Blazers have had their sights set on a state volleyball return after an early quarterfinal exit at the hands of eventual state champion Waterloo Columbus. They have been determined to improve last year’s finish.
“The loss last year really affected us,” Beckman senior Ellie Bildstein said. “We just want redemption, so when we get back we’ll be there to win.”
Second-ranked Beckman took one step closer to making the happen. The Blazers swept Cascade, 25-11, 25-16, 25-12, in a Class 2A Region 8 semifinal Thursday night at Beckman.
Ten of 13 players on the Beckman roster are seniors, giving head coach Todd Troutman a veteran group like some of his past teams. Another state appearance would be special for these upperclassmen.
“It would mean a lot,” Troutman said. “This group of seniors has been pushing for this since they were in junior high.
“They believed they could accomplish things they’ve been accomplishing, so I think they are putting a little pressure on themselves. We just have to relax and play a little bit.”
The Blazers (42-3) trailed for just one point the entire match, falling behind 2-1 in the second set. They actually used strong runs at the start of each set to take control, jumping to a 5-0 lead in the first, 6-2 edge in the second and 6-0 run to open the third.
“We feed off each other a lot,” Bildstein said. “Once someone starts getting a bunch of kills the next person is right there with them with the energy.”
They were able to close strong as well, scoring seven of the last eight to end the first. Beckman finished the second with six straight points, including a kill by Caroline Kluesner and a block and kill from Isabelle Bennett. The Blazers ended the match with five of the last six points, including kills from Kluesner and Paige McDermott.
Bildstein and Bennett led Beckman with seven kills apiece. Kluesner had five. The Blazers have a balanced attack and a setter in Sydney Steffen who has a knack of finding the hitter with the hot hand.
“That is the big thing,” Troutman said. “If you get somebody who might be a little off, there are two or three others who will pick them up. Sydney has a lot of options up front and it makes us tough to defend. You can’t really key on one or two girls.”
Cascade (20-15) continued to battle, pulling within one or two points close to the midway point of each set. The Cougars received two kills from Robyn Takes and an ace from Rachel Trumm to close to 10-9 in the second. Beckman regrouped to pull away in each instance.
Errors made the game a little ugly in stretches. Troutman said that is one thing his team has to clean that up for the next round.
“It would seem like we’d relax a little bit and you can’t relax in a game like this,” Troutman said. “Momentum can turn on you like that. That’s what we have to work through. That’s what we need to focus on. We need to do a better job of focusing in practice and that will carry over in matches.”
Beckman advances to face No. 12 Durant on Tuesday. The winner of that match will earn a berth to the state tournament. All of the hard work has led to this point.
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“They set their sights on getting back and making a statement,” Troutman said. “Now, they have their chance to do that. This whole year has been to give ourselves a chance to get back there. We have a chance, now.”
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