CEDAR RAPIDS — When Dyersville Beckman arrived at the U.S. Cellular Center to compete in the state volleyball tournament for the third year in a row, Coach Todd Troutman asked his players to raise a hand if they had ever played in the tournament before.
Senior middle hitter Paige McDermott was the only one.
Armed with a cast of new faces, the third-ranked Blazers are right where they were last year.
In the state semifinals.
“I knew we had the talent there, but wasn’t sure about how it was all going to piece together,” Troutman said after Beckman swept No. 8 Van Buren County, 25-18, 25-11, 25-14, in a Class 2A state quarterfinal match on Wednesday. “We are playing a lot more kids than we played (last year). … It is just kind of a weird hodgepodge and it is working. So that has kind of surprised me.”
Senior outside hitter Jada Wills transferred to Beckman from Dubuque Hempstead and has been a force all season for the Blazers. Wills led all players with 11 kills in the quarterfinal match and now has 485 this season, which ranks fourth in all of 2A.
“Transferring was probably one of the best decisions I have made,” Wills said. “The transfer could not have been better with the girls and Troutman just letting me do my thing and letting me lead the team in any which way I could.”
If Beckman possessed any butterflies during the quarterfinal, it did not show. The Blazers jumped on Van Buren County from the start, winning the first set by seven points, holding a double-digit lead for nearly all of Set 2 and setting the stage for the sweep with a 13-4 start to the final set.
“I feel like I wasn’t as nervous as last year, so that definitely helped,” said McDermott, who totaled seven kills and four digs. “Got rid of all the nerves. I just tried to help everybody else get rid of those nerves, too, so we could just go and bring all the energy that we could.”
Sophomore right side hitter Kiersten Schmitt posted 10 kills and 13 assists for the Blazers, while senior outside hitter Chloe Ungs added seven kills off the bench. Wills notched 11 digs, sophomore libero Olivia Hogan led all players with 12 and junior setter Makayla Koelker distributed 17 assists.
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Senior middle hitter Taryn Scheuermann contributed a team-high nine kills for Van Buren County (32-5), which was not only in the state tournament for the first time in school history, it is believed to be the first trip to state for any girls’ sport ever at the school.
“The juniors and sophomores and freshmen that are on our team are all in there and they are like, ‘We will be back next year, guys,’” Van Buren County senior outside hitter Selena Sayre said. “So they are already looking forward to making themselves better to get back here next year.”
Beckman (41-8) will play a 2A quarterfinal match against the winner of No. 6 Clarion CGD and No. 3 Wilton Thursday at 4 for a spot in the state championship match.
“Just playing our game and not being timid,” Beckman senior defensive specialist Ashley Engelken said. “Just going out there confident and knowing that we can do it.”