In terms of geography, the road to the state volleyball tournament is a long one, full of unfamiliar competition.
Belle Plaine will be making it, though, with a familiar leader.
Four-year star Kenzie Mantz leads the Plainsmen (22-5) into postseason play, which begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday at home against East Marshall (10-19).
“We really have an experienced group, and there’s a lot of talent in that group,” said April Kressley, in her first year as head coach after six years as an assistant.
A 6-foot-2 senior and an Iowa State University recruit, Mantz is certainly the go-to hitter. Mantz leads all of 2A in kills per set (5.04) and owns a lofty kill efficiency of .414.
Mantz has led the Plainsmen in kills since her freshman year, and has 1,579 of them in her career.
“For those who haven’t seen her, they need to see her,” Kressley said. “She works for everything she gets, year-round. And she can get even better.”
Regionals open in 2A and 1A throughout the state Thursday. Belle Plaine is one of the best teams that did not receive a first-round bye.
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The Plainsmen were assigned to a widespread 2A Region 4, which stretches westward all the way to the Missouri River. If Belle Plaine reaches the regional finals, it could face Tri-Center, which is located just northeast of Omaha.
“It’s very strange,” Kressley said. “But we’re up to the challenge.”
Belle Plaine defeated East Marshall twice in the regular season. The Plainsmen did not face any other teams that they’re likely to meet in their region.
The top match in the area Tuesday will be played at West Branch, where the Bears (22-14) host Lisbon (25-10) in a 2A encounter.
Teams in 1A and 2A with first-round byes join the fray next Monday. Regionals open Wednesday in 3A, 4A and 5A.
Tuesday's Class 2A regional first round
(All matches 7 p.m.)
IKM-Manning (14-16) at Underwood (22-12)
Madrid (8-13) at Ogden (5-19)
Colfax-Mingo (7-22) at Woodward-Granger (19-10)
East Marshall (10-19) at Belle Plaine (22-5)
Saint Ansgar (11-11) at Central Springs (21-10)
West Fork (14-10) at Aplington-Parkersburg (8-19)
Sumner-Fredericksburg (10-24) at Denver (22-16)
Postville (3-21)at South Winneshiek (11-18)
North Linn (4-22) at Jesup (18-16)
Alburnett (11-16) at East Buchanan (21-13)
Highland (4-16) at Iowa City Regina (13-23)
Lisbon (25-10) at West Branch (22-14)
Clayton Ridge (16-17) at Maquoketa Valley (14-12)
Northeast (2-29) at Bellevue (15-15)
Columbus Community (5-25) at Wapello (11-16)
Danville (9-15) at Mediapolis (22-16)
Tuesday's Class 1A regional first round
(All matches 7 p.m.)
Meskwaki (6-17) at Baxter (11-13)
Garwin GMG (7-17) at Gladbrook-Reinbeck (24-9)
Colo-Nesco (9-16) at Collins-Maxwell (13-12)
Ar-We-Va (14-10) at Audubon (11-20)
Exira-EHK (3-24) at Coon Rapids-Bayard (16-17)
Paton-Churdan (8-14) at Glidden-Ralston (11-9)
Lansing Kee (4-20) at Riceville (9-21)
West Central (11-16) at Nashua-Plainfield (4-24)
Clinton Prince of Peace (13-17) at Calamus-Wheatland (10-24)
Midland (3-26) at Elkader Central (20-7)
Easton Valley (11-17) at Bellevue Marquette (18-14)
Central City (6-21) at Springville (14-20)
Morning Star Academy (6-14) at Lone Tree (1-25)
Waterloo Christian (0-17) at Dunkerton (10-17)
Valley Lutheran (0-21) at Don Bosco (19-15)
English Valleys (5-18) at Iowa Valley (16-17)
BGM (2-22) at North Mahaska (11-16)
Melcher-Dallas (8-13) at Lynnville-Sully (14-12)
Grand View Christian (8-31) at Ankeny Christian (17-14)
Sigourney (8-20) at Winfield-Mount Union (13-14)
Tri-County (0-20) at Iowa Mennonite (18-14)
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