Prep Volleyball

Veteran Unity Christian advances to state volleyball semifinals

Knights aggressiveness leads to sweep of Dike-New Hartford

CEDAR RAPIDS — Unity Christian is no stranger to the state volleyball tournament.

With 20 appearances, including one in each of the last five seasons, the Knights know what it takes to get here and have success.

They can chalk up another state victory for the program.

Fifth-ranked Unity swept No. 6 Dike-New Hartford, 25-22, 25-13, 25-18, in the Class 2A state quarterfinals Wednesday at the U.S. Cellular Center. The Knights (31-6) face second-ranked Dyersville Beckman (44-3) in the semifinals Thursday, starting at 4 p.m.

Unity reached the semifinals for the second time in the last three seasons, returning all but one starter from last season.

“It’s exciting, because as a sophomore I want to do as much as I can to make the team better,” Unity’s Janie Schoonhoven said. “I want to get the seniors as far as we can.”

Unity’s aggressive style caused fits for the Wolverines. The Knights wanted to establish their attack early and they were successful most of the game, tallying 36 total kills. Erin Wieringa recorded 30 assists for the Knights.

“We knew we had to pass well so we’d be able to play (well) on offense,” Unity senior Jori Bronner said. “We also knew we needed to serve hard so they’d be out of system and they couldn’t get to their key hitters. That was kind of the game plan, coming in to stay on our offense.”

Bronner made a big impact, posting a match-high 20 kills and connecting on a .567 clip.

“I think it was a favorable matchup for her at the net,” Timmermans said. “I think she had the advantage over the blockers she was facing. She was finding the holes and attacking strong, keeping the ball in front of her, putting it down and seeing the whole court. She did a great job.

“We need that from her. She’s one of our go-tos.”

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The Knights’ service game was a key factor. They had eight aces, including five from Schoonhoven.

“We were serving very aggressively and I think that worked,” Unity Coach Patty Timmermans said. “We kept them out of system most of the match. We were able to fluster some of their passers and they had to change things up.”

Schoonhoven opened scoring for the team in each set with an ace. She credited Timmermans for much of the team’s effectiveness.

“Patty knew what spots were weak on their team,” Schoonhoven said. “We served right to them and that’s what gave us success.”

Morgan Weber had 13 kills and Amber Rickert added 10 for the Wolverines (35-13).

The road gets tougher with Beckman, which is the highest rated team in the field. It isn’t an expectation to get to this point and the Knights know they have to be on top of their game each round.

“You always have to bring your best game,” Bronner said. “It’s anyone’s game any day. You can’t expect to win. You have to go out and prove you can win.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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