TRAER — Genetics can be a funny thing.
Katie Kopriva and Takoa Kopriva are first cousins, daughters of brothers. Both were born in November 2001.
On the volleyball court, the similarities end there.
Katie is 6 feet tall, a left-handed hitter that is “cold-blooded” on the court, according to North Tama Coach Channing Halstead.
Takoa is a 5-foot-4 libero, piloting the back row.
“She’s more soft-spoken,” Halstead said.
They are part of a senior class that has been with Halstead since elementary school — “my guinea pigs,” she calls them — and have led North Tama to unprecedented prosperity.
The Redhawks advanced to the state tournament for the first time in 2017. And now, a year after having their hearts broken in last year’s regional finals by Gladbrook-Reinbeck, they own a 12-0 record and a No. 2 ranking in Class 1A.
“It’s been really exciting so far,” Katie said. “We’ve had some pretty decent competition so far, and we’re working really hard in practice.”
Pressure and expectations got to the Redhawks last year, Halstead admitted.
“We got a little uptight,” she said. “(In 2017), nobody knew who we were. Last year, they did, and we didn’t know how to handle it. This year we’re talking more about ‘confidence’ than ‘expectations.’”
“We felt a lot of pressure,” Takoa said. “Now we’re focusing more on what we need to do to get better, and not worried so much on what we’re expected to do.”
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The Kopriva clan “is a competitive family,” Katie said. “Both of our dads (Jay and Dan) were successful in baseball.”
Katie has been the Redhawks’ leading hitter since her arrival on the varsity team as a freshman; she has collected 1,100 kills in her career, 3.87 per set with a .284 kill efficiency.
A lefty is a good thing to have, giving you a natural weapon on the right side.
“We’re moving her around more this year,” Halstead said. “And she’s a good passer. That lets us do a lot of things.”
Junior Abby Deboef (2.63 kills per set) and senior Carlie Gorder (1.75) provide additional firepower. Senior setter Isabel Sierra averages 7.17 assists per set.
Takoa has been the defensive anchor since joining the varsity, compiling 1,361 career digs.
“She is one of the most underrated players in 1A,” Halstead said. “We just kind of put her in the middle of the court and let her go.”
Leadership can be provided in multiple ways. Katie said she is “a lot like Coach. I try to be vocal and take charge. I’m going to be honest and up-front with you.”
“I’m like Katie, but a more quiet version,” she said.
The Redhawks already have two tournament titles in their possession this season. They face an Iowa Star Conference showdown Thursday at 1A third-ranked Janesville, the four-time defending state champion.
“It’s a big one,” Katie said. “More than anything, we’ve got to worry about controlling our side the net.”
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