CEDAR RAPIDS – Only four players on Sergeant Bluff-Luton’s volleyball team had any significant varsity playing experience before this season.
Plenty of new faces has yielded zero drop-off. The Warriors are ranked No. 1 in Class 4A, are in the state tournament for the third year in a row and are winning matches while they are there.
“I have got great senior leadership, great leadership from those four players that did play last year,” fifth-year Sergeant Bluff-Luton Coach Renee Winkel said after the top-ranked Warriors ousted Glenwood, 27-25, 25-17, 23-25, 25-18, in a 4A state quarterfinal match Tuesday at the U.S. Cellular Center. “They are a really close team and they have really embraced the underclassmen and the underclassmen have stepped up and followed them. It has made it a lot easier for the team to mesh and gel and have some chemistry that way.”
The Warriors (35-3) were led by senior outside hitter Kenzie Foley, an all-state selection last year and St. Cloud State commit who posted 27 kills and 21 digs against Glenwood. No player in the 4A bracket has more than Foley’s 4.5 kills per set.
Foley now has 442 total, which ranks fourth in all of 4A.
Of the four players who saw the court last season, Foley and fellow outside hitter Elle Sneller are the only seniors.
“We have to bring a lot of energy so they follow,” Foley said. “They look at us as mentors for them. So if we go down, they will go down. We just try to keep our positivity on the court, so they also remain positive. That makes a team so much better.”
A pair of sophomore newcomers, setters Maddie Hinkel and Madison Wilcoxson, distributed 25 and 28 assists, respectively, while junior defensive specialist Mia Gamet, one of the four returners along with sophomore middle hitter Emma Salker, chipped in 18 digs.
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Glenwood (30-13) bows out in the quarterfinal round in its first state tournament appearance in school history.
Sergeant Bluff-Luton (35-3) will face either No. 4 Waverly-Shell Rock or No. 5 West Delaware in a 4A state semifinal Thursday at noon. The Warriors are in search of their first state championship.
“No. 1 gives you a big target on your back,” Sneller said. “It is just how we deal with that. I think we have been doing really good with that and we have to carry that out for two more games.”