TIPTON — It was a historical season, one with an abrupt ending.
“The girls went to the state tournament with really wide eyes, and I did too,” Tipton volleyball coach Amy Calonder said. “We had no idea what to expect.
“It felt like the match lasted about three minutes. I tried to take a timeout to slow it down, but I didn’t feel like it ever slowed down.”
A three-set sweep by Osage in last year’s Class 3A quarterfinals put a wrap on the best season in Tipton history: 32-7 and its first state appearance.
It shouldn’t be the last. The Tigers opened practice at 8 a.m. Monday with high hopes and a motto, “The Best Is Yet To Come.”
“We haven’t played to our full potential yet,” said senior Amanda Smith, who splits time at setter with all-stater Sommer Daniel, a junior and a University of Utah commit. “We can do really big things. We can be a dangerous team. We’ve got to keep our heads in it and our minds calm.”
The first hour of the Tigers’ first practice consisted of conditioning and ball-handling drills in a hot gym at the high school. And a reminder:
“What we do now matters in November,” Calonder said.
Tipton’s roster returns virtually intact, and the Tigers are a lock to be ranked — at the very least — in the 3A top five when the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union unveils its first rankings later this month.
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All seven starters are back. Smith spearheads a senior class than also features outside hitters Emily Hermsen and Blake Ehler, middle hitter Jamie Kofron and libero Laken Hermiston. Middle hitter Kamryn Chapman joins Daniel in the junior class.
All six attackers collected at least 98 kills last season, with Daniel leading the team with 424 (4.04 per set).
“We’ve got two great setters that can push the ball out there,” said Calonder, who is starting her 16th season at Tipton. “All of our six hitters can hit, so that keeps our opponents guessing.
“We have all the skills. We’ve got to work on our mental game, our culture.”
Daniel is the Division-I commit. Kofron is the track and field star, sweeping the discus and shot put titles at the Drake Relays last spring, and also winning a state title in the discus.
“You just have to learn to handle the pressure, and that applies to our team, too,” Kofron said. “We have to keep our mentality. We have high goals, but we have to work for them. Nothing is handed to us.”
Daniel said, “I think we can be really good, but there are a lot of things we need to work on. We need to stay composed. That got proven to us at state last year.”
The Tigers open the season Aug. 20 with a tournament at Lisbon.
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