HULL, Iowa | Sergeant Bluff-Luton has been playing lights-out volleyball all season, but two-time defending Class 2A state champion Western Christian is playing at an even more remarkable pace.
Coach Tammi Veerbeek’s second-ranked Wolfpack overcame Game 1 serving errors to post a 21-16, 21-9 win over the 4A sixth-rated Warriors in Saturday afternoon’s title match of the Kooima-Kaemingk Classic. Western won for the 27th time in the last 28 matches since a 3-3 start of the season at the Bellevue West Tournament.
Serving turned out to be a strength when the match ended. Both Olivia Granstra and Madison Byl turned in four-point serving runs while building a Game 2 lead that ballooned to 13 points at one time.
“Sergeant Bluff has great size and they match up with us well at the net,” said Veerbeek. “They’re well-coached, disciplined, one of the great teams in Iowa.
“In Game 1, we missed three serves in a row. I told them I was proud of them for being able to overcome that and win the match. That was the good part, but we needed to clean that up in Game 2. We did. You can’t give up that many free points to a team of that caliber. Despite the three serving mistakes in a row, we made big plays from different kids at different times to get the win.”
Ashtyn Veerbeek, a University of Nebraska basketball commit, registered 66 kills and 12 blocks as Western Christian (30-4) posted a 6-0 tournament record that included a 21-9, 21-9 semifinal sweep over No. 6 (2A) Unity Christian. Jessi DeJager supplied 35 kills and nine blocks while Granstra totaled 81 assists and 36 digs. Tori Wynja finished with 45 assists while Madison Hofman posted a team-best 44 digs.
Madison Harms collected 26 kills and eight blocks for Sergeant Bluff-Luton, which has won 19 of 21 matches on four Saturday tournaments this season. Preceding the Kooima-Kaemingk Classic were events held at Le Mars, Waukee and Unity Christian.
Coach Renee Winkel’s Warriors had posted pool wins over Sioux Falls O’Gorman (21-8, 21-13), East (21-10, 21-16), Unity Christian (21-16, 21-14) and MOC-Floyd Valley (21-11, 21-7) before a 19-21, 21-18, 15-11 semifinal nail-biter over No. 3 (4A) Bishop Heelan. Harms, a 6-2 junior, was carried off the court with an ankle injury late in Game 3 against the Crusaders, a team they’ll host Tuesday night to decide the Missouri River Activities Conference title.
Harms still played throughout the title match against Western Christian, a team the Warriors were swept by on Sept. 28 at Hull.
“How did Madison (play in the title match),” laughed Winkel. “She plays year around. She’s in great shape. She brings energy. She’s done a nice job this year. We expect great things from her.”
Harms had forced a 13-all tie in the first set against the Wolfpack when she beat Veerbeek’s block attempt. Teammate Abby Minten followed with an ace serve, but Veerbeek’s kill began a three-point run which propelled the tournament hosts to a lead they never lost.
Kylee Christensen provided 32 kills and five blocks for Sergeant Bluff-Luton (30-3) while Kenzie Foley supplied 27 kills and 47 digs. Lexi Sneller delivered 81 assists while Brooklyn Huberty had 25 digs. Maya Schmidt finished with 16 assists and six ace serves.
Bishop Heelan bounced back from a 15-21, 21-9, 15-9 loss to Western Christian to reach the semifinals following pool wins over Bondurant-Farrar (21-15, 21-19), 4A 15th-ranked Harlan (21-16, 21-14) and Le Mars (21-11, 21-7).
“We have things we have to work on, they’re fixable and we’ll go back Monday afternoon and work on those things,” said Bishop Heelan Coach Mary Miller, whose 24-8 team had entered the tournament with wins in 19 of their 20 previous matches. “(Sergeant Bluff-Luton) is tough. They’re young, they have two big girls and they have complementary players. Tuesday night, it’s going to be three out of five. It’s going to be a battle. Both teams are competitive.”
Nicole Jacobson provided 40 kills and two ace serves for Heelan while Samantha McCabe supplied 32 kills and 41 digs. Setters Jordyn Knapp and Emma LaFleur finished with 53 and 46 assists, respectively, while Allison Bermel had 48 digs.
Corrina Timmermans provided 47 kills and 27 digs for Unity Christian, which went 3-2 on the day. Jori Bronner supplied 35 kills, 29 digs and five ace serves while Brooke Zevenbergen ended with 34 digs and four ace serves. Setter Erin Wieringa dished 63 assists.
Emma Harmelink contributed 21 kills, 12 blocks and three ace serves for East, which suffered pool losses to Unity Christian (21-16, 21-14), Sergeant Bluff-Luton, MOC-Floyd Valley (East 21-13, 21-10) and Sioux Falls O’Gorman (21-13, 21-7). The Black Raiders ended the tournament with a 21-19, 14-21, 15-9 loss to Le Mars in a match pitting teams that had each gone 0-4 in pool play.
Riley Donahue provided 20 kills and 18 digs for East, while Kirstin Sykes ended with 15 kills, 18 digs, five blocks and four ace serves. Setter Chloe Kramer had 59 assists and four ace serves while Josie Blake had a team-high 43 digs.