ORANGE CITY, Iowa | Perhaps Western Iowa’s most interesting volleyball regional is Class 2A Region 2.
“It’s kind of loaded,” said Unity Christian Coach Patty Timmermans.
How true. Timmermans’ squad is one of four state-ranked teams in the regional. Any one of those four potentially can qualify for the 2A state tournament.
Fifth-ranked Unity Christian (21-10) hosts No. 15 Alta/Aurelia (23-3) tonight. The winner could face No. 9 Hinton (21-10) in Thursday night’s regional semifinal.
Then, the winner of that match may meet No. 10 Treynor (28-5) in the finals to decide the Region 2 representative in the Class 2A state tournament the week of Nov. 6-10 at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.
“Any state run isn’t easy, but there are four ranked teams and we’re one of them,” said Alta/Aurelia Coach Jeannie Henningsen. “Hopefully, we’re up for the challenge. We’re looking forward to it.”
Henningsen coached the Alta team which qualified for the 1A state tournament in 2010. Timmermans has coached three Unity Christian state tournament teams, including last year’s 2A semifinal squad.
Mary Jo Coleman has an opportunity to make her state tournament coaching debut for a Hinton program that hasn’t reached state since 2013.
Her squad, just like the others, is battle-tested, going 3-7 against state-ranked teams. In fact, the Blackhawks’ second-place 10-1 War Eagle Conference record included a five-game win over No. 3 Gehlen Catholic, which will begin its quest to return to the 1A state meet tonight when it hosts Akron-Westfield.
“In this region, there’s a lot of ranked teams that will put up strong challenges,” said Coleman. “We’re fortunate to play challenging teams because they’ve pushed us to be the best we can be. I’m super proud of the girls who have come to push themselves to be better every day.”
Setter Hallie Reuter (693 assists) averages 8.15 assists per game for a Hinton squad that closed the regular season with wins in eight of their final nine matches. Reuter leads an offense that includes Bryce Klein (167 kills), Aspen Coffee (163 kills), El’Lee Kroll (149 kills), Allyssa Traver (137 kills) and Madison Walding (90 kills).
Unity Christian finished one win ahead of Hinton in the WEC standings. Five veterans were among the starters from last year’s squad – Jori Bronner (352 kills, 235 digs, 44 blocks), Corrina Timmermans (345 kills, 220 digs, 51 blocks), Erin Wieringa (540 assists, 37 blocks), Brooke Zevenbergen (237 assists, 210 digs) and Anna DeHaan (86 digs).
Some of those veteran Knights have assumed different roles, including setters Wieringa and Zevenbergen. They direct an attack that averages a solid 11.06 kills per game for a squad that ended the regular season winning seven of their final eight matches.
That stretch included a 4-1 slate at the Heelan Classic where Unity Christian defeated No. 2 (Class 2A) Western Christian for the second straight year.
Yet, the only match Timmermans is discussing with her team is the bout against Alta/Aurelia.
“Before Alta/Aurelia got in the rankings, I knew they were a respectable team,” said Timmermans. “I anticipated them winning in the first round. We’ve played Alta/Aurelia two years in a row in tournaments, so we’re a little familiar with them. We have to be ready to play.”
Alta/Aurelia is Region 2’s hottest team with 15 consecutive victories. Henningsen’s Twin Lakes Conference champions have three hitters with over 200 kills – Lauren Rohwer (294), Laney Stanton (272) and Erin Lockin (211), while setter Annika Patton has 726 assists for a team that’s in the state ratings for the first time this season.
“We’ll put together a game plan which will allow us to perform well in all facets of the game,” said Henningsen. “We have to click in all facets of the game. Our serve reception has to be spot on. We’re powerful at outside and middle where there’s not a weak link. Our right side can put it down. When our setter’s there running our offense, good things happen.”