CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa | Sioux Center is a stranger to those extended volleyball matches which go beyond three games.
When the No. 1-ranked Siouxland Conference champions rallied from a 16-13 deficit to win the third set, it marked just the second time this season they’ve played a four-game match. The fourth set was tense, but when sophomore outside hitter Makennah Traver laid down a kill for a 5-2 lead, Sioux Center never lost the advantage, picking up where it left off in Set 3.
Camryn Cleveringa had 16 kills and Alexis Toering added 12 as Sioux Center posted its first-ever state tournament win in the 11-year Julie Oldenkamp coaching era, 25-17, 20-25, 25-18, 25-18 over No. 13 Red Oak Wednesday afternoon in a first-round Class 3A match at the U.S. Cellular Center. Traver finished with 11 kills for a squad that will take a 33-5 record into Thursday afternoon’s 2 o’clock semifinal against No. 8 Osage (26-9).
“We talked in the beginning that we might get down a set,” said Cleveringa. “But we told ourselves not to worry about it because we know that we’re a super-good team and we have everyone behind us working hard. We know there’s five sets for a reason so we can always come from behind to win.”
Cleveringa also made nine hitting errors for Sioux Center, one which gave Red Oak the 16-13 advantage late in Game 3. Consecutive kills from Toering and Clevering snapped a 17-17 tie and from there, gave the Warriors the victory and after Traver snapped a 2-all Game 4 tie, Sioux Center never trailed.
“We did not serve receive super-well in the second set as well as we would have liked to,” said Oldenkamp. “Momentum down the stretch in Game 3 was huge for us. We have a lot of offensive options and a great setter (Jordyn VanMaanen), but we have to serve and pass and bring the fundamentals. That’s what we have to do.
“Thirteen to 16, we were down, I called time out and the girls really responded well at that point. When it was 16-16, it was a good hustle play for us. We made some great efforts there. I felt that was the switch that would push us to finish that set strong. It was a well-rounded effort for our girls.”
VanMaanen dished 35 assists for Sioux Center, which had defeated conference rival Rock Valley in four sets on Sept. 21. Cleveringa had 14 digs while three other all-around players in the system also reached double-digit dig totals – Traver (11), Van Maanen (11) and Toering (10).
Needless to say, there were many dives to the floor while stopping a Red Oak offense that received match-high totals of 18 kills and 12 attack errors from 5-foot-11 Red Oak outside hitter Sierra Athen, who will continue her volleyball career at Bellevue University (Neb.). Athen tried to keep Red Oak (one of four Hawkeye Ten Conference state tournament teams) within range, but Sioux Center’s tall, rangy hitters offered challenges.
Athen, incidentally, played for the Red Oak team that posted a 3-0 sweep over the Warriors in a 2014 first-round 3A state tournament match. Toering also played as a freshman at state, the only season, she has ever been a middle hitter.
Toering has been hitting from the outside ever since. She’ll take a team-best 306 kills into the semifinals.
“We tried to communicate more in the third and fourth sets,” said Toering. “We knew we made mistakes in the second set and we didn’t want to make the same mistakes again, like following those. We talked about it and tried to fix it as a team. Momentum really came with us. We had a lot of energy. Our crowd was great. They brought their energy too. Once you get the momentum in a game like this and in a place like this, you start to speed up.”
Sioux Center now has a new set of goals which begin Thursday afternoon. Toering, a Northwestern College basketball recruit, plans to take it one game at a time, one match at the time, an attitude which Oldenkamp appreciates.
“We have some film to watch and some things to talk about,” said Oldenkamp. “We haven’t done this in Sioux Center yet. We talked about, ‘Hey, let’s refocus and enjoy this win, but we have work to do. Consistency is always our key. We know we can play at a high level, but we have to play consistent.”