116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Sometimes the toughest thing for a team to do when it is a prohibitive favorite is play like one.
That was not the case for Dike-New Hartford on Tuesday in its Class 2A state quarterfinal matchup with South Hardin.
The top-ranked Wolverines, whose only loss of the year came to Class 5A No. 1 Iowa City Liberty, began defense of their state title with an impressive 25-15, 25-16, 25-13 victory at the Alliant Energy PowerHouse.
The Wolverines (52-1) will play in a 4 p.m. semifinal on Wednesday. South Hardin, in the state tournament for a second straight year, retires at 36-6.
Dike-New Hartford has all its starters back from last year's state tournament team and it looked the part of a favorite from the beginning. Sophomore Payton Petersen, who had 17 kills in the match, said her team wasn't about to look past its opposition.
“We've been that way all year,” she said. “Each game, we just focus on taking it one point at a time while making sure we know what our opponents want to do and what we need to take care of on our side as well.”
» Photo gallery: Dike-New Hartford vs. South Hardin in state volleyball tournament
With 53 matches in the book for the 2021 season, the Wolverines have been in action more than any of the other 39 teams at the state tournament. Veteran Coach Diane Harms, in search of her seventh state title, said her team has embraced the workload and handled the expectations well.
“The girls have done a great job of just going out and playing all season,” she said. “We don't talk a lot about (the expectations). We just play hard all the time and we just focus on who we have next and we hope that everything falls into place by taking that approach.”
One of Dike-New Hartford's top hitters, sophomore Maryn Bixby, didn't play in the match due to illness, but it hardly mattered. The Wolverines dominated at the net and never let South Hardin get into a rhythm.
Although the results weren't there for the Tigers, they left an impression on Petersen.
“They kept staying aggressive all the time,” Petersen said. “They kept a positive attitude all the time. You don't always see that from an opponent that is down. It was very impressive on their part.”
Petersen's twin sister, Jaydn, added 12 kills for the Wolverines. Ava Paige's seven kills led the South Hardin offense.