CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Western Christian is used to setting records at the state volleyball tournament.
The Wolfpack have appeared in the most state tournaments (37) in IGHSAU history, the most consecutive state tournaments (19) and the most consecutive state finals (10).
On Friday, Western Christian set a new milestone in IGHSAU state volleyball history. Specifically for coach Tammi Veerbeek.
When Western Christian beat Dyersville Beckman Catholic 20-25, 25-18, 28-26, 25-16 on Friday in the Class 2A state title match, that gave Veerbeek her 12th championship as a head coach. She's won all 12 at Western Christian during her 21 years with the program.
With the 12th title, she passed former Dubuque Wahlert coach Tom Keating for the most championships ever by a coach. The two were tied at 11 before Friday.
“I don’t really care about the number right now, but I am so happy for the girls,” Veerbeek said. “What matters to me is that this group of girls accomplished their goal. At the end, one of them said ‘Coach, you broke the record!’ but I was like ‘Who cares.’
“We won this as a team. I am just so happy for the girls. They get to experience this moment together. They worked hard for it.”
Granted, Veerbeek was a bit happy that she moved past Keating. When Veerbeek played for Western Christian back in high school, Keating’s Wahlert teams beat Western Christian twice for a state title - in 1990 and 1991.
“I was runner-up both years to the guy. So now I finally feel like I got on top of him,” Veerbeek joked. “It’s not about me. It’s the culture of Western Christian volleyball. We have a culture that is hard to match right now. Kids love volleyball at Western Christian and that makes it fun for me.”
While Veerbeek was happy for her players, they were happy for Veerbeek. They knew where she stood in the record books when the season began.
“We knew that it was going to be a record-breaker for her but she doesn’t like to talk about it,” Western Christian senior Tori Wynja said. “She just wants it for us so bad. It’s definitely not about her. (We wanted it for her) so bad. She’s such a great coach and she deserves it.”
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In order to get Veerbeek her 12th title, Western Christian had to overcome its nerves.
Even though Western Christian has four starters back from last season’s state title team, the Wolfpack were still a bit nervous to start their match with Beckman Catholic. That allowed the Trailblazers to go on a 6-0 run late to win the first set 25-20.
“The first set, we were nervous. We knew Beckman was good and they were going to give us a run for our money,” Western Christian senior Olivia Granstra said. “We were a little nervous but after the game, we got together, took a deep breath and said we can do this and just kind of regrouped.”
Western Christian did calm down in the second set and was up 17-11 before going on to win the game 25-18.
Veerbeek said the players will always have nerves in the state title match whether it is their first time playing in one or the fourth time.
“Sometimes I almost feel like it’s higher for us because there is pressure of it being Western Christian volleyball,” Veerbeek said. “They are still kids, 15-, 16-, 17-year old kids. It doesn’t matter if they’ve been here before, this is the biggest stage in high school sports. Sometimes when you are successful, the pressure mounts even more.
“I was proud that they bounced back. These kids are pretty gritty. Everybody made plays for each other and got a state championship.”
Western Christian had the third set at 24-22 set point but Beckman Catholic went on a 3-0 run to put it at set point for the Trailblazers. The Wolfpack held off the Blazers and went on to win the set 28-26.
Western Christian got out to a 13-7 lead in the third set and went on to win it 25-16 to claim the title.
It was the third title in the past four seasons for the current senior class - Makenna Kooima, Granstra, Wynja, Ally Postma, Courtney Kollis, Abby Postma and Macay Van’t Hul.
“Our senior class is amazing. We are such a tight group and that really helps,” Wynja said. “We always just play for each other.”
Western Christian finished the match hitting .271 as a team and had four players with double-figure kills. Van’t Hul and Postma each had 15 kills, Wynja had 14 and Emma Westphal had 10. Sienna Moss added six kills.
Granstra had 58 assists and Kooima had 31 digs. Madison Vis added 16 digs.
“We knew it was going to take a team effort,” Veerbeek said. “If everybody contributes, if everybody steps up and makes plays. Defensive plays, digging, serving, we felt like we had the tools to be a very good team. That’s what wins championships.”