CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa | Western Christian’s volleyball team has been challenged throughout the course of this week’s Class 2A state tournament.
Lessons learned from Wednesday afternoon’s five-match victory in the first round over Treynor were applied into Thursday afternoon’s 25-20, 25-17, 25-15 sweep over third-seeded Sidney at the U.S. Cellular Center.
The challenge the second-seeded Wolfpack of Coach Tammi Veerbeek face is how to separate friendships with their Sioux County neighbors, Unity Christian when the two teams meet in the Class 2A state finals at 4:45 Friday afternoon. Western defeated Unity in a tense five-game battle back in 2001.
“It’s super-exciting, good for (Unity Christian),” said outside hitter Chandler Schemper, who provided eight kills for Western Christian (41-5), while teammates Macay Van’t Hul and Ally Postma led the way with 12 and nine kills, respectively.
“We’re super-excited to see them. It should be a good match, hopefully. We’re pretty good friends. We know each other. I know (Unity setter) Erin Wieringa pretty well. We see each other all the time at tournaments, so we’ve gotten to know each other over the years. It’ll be fun. We just have to focus on our game.”
Veerbeek was into her third season as head coach when Western rallied from a 2-1 games deficit to post the victory over the Knights (then coached by Janna Van Donge) and score the second of her 10 state championships. A win today over the War Eagle Conference-championship Knights will put her in a tie with former Dubuque Wahlert Coach Tom Keating for the most state championships for a coach.
Veerbeek knows it will be a fun experience for both her team and Coach Patty Timmermans’ Knights.
“Many of our girls went to grade school together,” said Veerbeek. “It’s a unique situation. We go to church with some of them. Patty is my cousin. It will be an emotionally-charged game because of those ties. But there’s a lot of respect between both programs. There are friendships there. A lot of players go on to play at either Dordt College or Northwestern College together. So it will definitely be an interesting match against them.”
Friday afternoon’s match marks the ninth straight 2A title appearance for Western Christian and its coach has a 47-8 career record at USCC. Serving was among the keys for the Lakes Conference champions, which defeated a Sidney squad that entered riding a 37-match winning streak.
Madison Hofman had five ace serves for the Wolfpack while Tori Wynja and Emma Bousema each added two.
“I thought we served very well, very aggressively,” said Veerbeek. “We really picked certain spots apart on them. I thought we identified No. 6 (Kelsie Hobbie) and No. 7 (Camryn McClintock) early. It was unfortunate they lost one of their hitters last night. That’s tough on a team. We spread out our attack against them.”
Hofman had 12 digs for the Wolfpack while Wynja and Granstra added 11 and 10, respectively. Van’t Hul contributed one solo block and one block assist.
Granstra’s 29 assists helped direct a squad that hit .219, an improvement over the .131 Western recorded the day before.
“I think we just needed to be more comfortable,” said Granstra. “Today, we came out with a lot more energy. We needed to get on top of them right away. We were more comfortable because we had that first match out of the way.”
“It was crazy yesterday,” said Schemper. “There weren’t as many nerves today. When things weren’t going our way, we just stayed calm. We stuck to our game plan. Right now, we have a lot of confidence in our teammates. We trust them to come out and do the best they can. We’re really looking forward to tomorrow and playing our game again.”
Hobbie led Sidney (39-3) with 11 kills. Setter Olivia Larsen dished 24 assists.
Veerbeek also guided Western to 2A titles in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2015 and 2016. She will enter the title match with a 47-8 career record in state tournament matches.
Western Christian teams coached by Tom Van Den Bosch won 2A titles in 1989, 1993, 1994 and 1995.
Sue Kooima also coached Western Christian to a 2A state title in 1998, her first and only year with the program.