CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- Chandler Schemper spent many summer hours learning the outside hitter role and all of that hard work paid off Friday night as she concluded her prep volleyball career helping Western Christian win its second Class 2A state championship in the last three seasons.
The former defensive specialist collected three kills during a 6-1 run in the third set as the Wolfpack rallied from an 18-15 deficit to shade Unity Christian by two points. Schemper kept on swinging in Game 4 and finished with 11 kills as part of a balanced attack that carried Coach Tammi Veerbeek’s squad to a 25-16, 21-25, 25-23, 25-7 triumph over their Sioux County neighbors at the U.S. Cellular Center.
Teammates Ally Postma and Tori Wynja added 11 and 10 kills, respectively, for a program that claimed its 17th state championship, 11 with Veerbeek at the helm, putting her in a tie with former Dubuque Wahlert Coach Tom Keating for the most coaching titles in state volleyball history. Setters Olivia Granstra and Wynja, who double as right-side hitters in the squad’s 6-2 offense, dished 28 and 18 assists, respectively.
“I used to play (outside hitter) when I was younger, fifth grade to freshman year,” said Schemper. “It’s been fun getting that position back and kind of owning it again. Before we do (summer) camps, we have meetings and (Veerbeek) talks about where she sees you and what role you possibly might have. She told me they are going to give me a chance and that I would need to work really hard. Summer camps were where I had to work really hard to just feel that swing again.”
“Chandler is a kid who has no fear,” said Veerbeek. “She’s just 5-foot-8. Chandler, I just kept telling her in Game 4, ‘Keep swinging. I don’t care if they keep blocking you.’ We had a huge lead. We give our kids that no fear mentality. I don’t care if they make a mistake because we had such a lead built. We trusted them to take those swings.
“Once in a while we got tip happy. I told them in a time out, ‘We can’t win by tipping on this team. We’ve got to swing, be aggressive, believe in your teammates.’ We pulled it through.”
Unity (32-7), which received 18 and 12 kills from respectively, Corrina Timmermans and Jori Bronner, had led much of the third set. Bronner had the squad’s fourth ace serve of the match for a 5-2 lead while the first of three 4-point leads began as Brooke Zevenbergen and Jamie Schoonhoven teamed up on a block of Schemper for an 11-7 lead.
Interestingly, Unity was pushing to re-create the scenario that had produced a 2-1 set advantage back in the 2001 2A title match against Western. Veerbeek, an outside hitter in the early 1990’s for Coach Tom Van Den Bosch’s squad, was in her third year of coaching her high school alma mater and saw her squad storm back for a 3-2 victory over the Knights, coached then by Janna Van Donge.
History wasn’t repeated. A Western attack error, followed by a double-block from Zevenbergen and Micah Byl on Schemper produced an 18-15 Unity lead, but 6-foot Sienna Moss (2 solo blocks, 4 block assists) blocked Timmermans for a 19-19 tie and Schemper followed with two consecutive kills for a 21-19 lead.
“Our team, we always talk about trying to get runs and not allow them to get big runs,” said Veerbeek. “That pivotal Game 3, that swung momentum our way.”
Unity, which was 0-4 against Western this season, stormed back. Bronner (14 digs, 2 ace serves, 1 solo block, 1 block assist) blocked Wynja, the Wolfpack were charged with a double hit and Bronner added a kill to tie the set 23-all.
Moss and Postma (2 solo blocks, 1 block assist) snapped the deadlock with a block on Bronner while Postma’s kill ended the set. Western continued its momentum as consecutive kills from Wynja and Postma produced a 5-1 lead for a team that stormed to the triumph that finished the match.
“The momentum can switch on any play,” said Timmermans, a Dordt recruit who finished her prep career as the school’s leader with 1,419 kills and 947 digs. “Both teams played a great game. It could have gone either way. We have to give credit to Western for their solid block at the net and their great defense in the back row. They really put up a great fight.”
The two schools combined for five of the seven positions on the 2A all-tournament team. Postma, Macay Van’t Hul (8 kills, 2 solo blocks) and Madison Hofman (30 digs) represented Western. Timmermans (19 digs, 1 solo block, 1 block assist) was named the squad’s captain while Bronner was also cited.
“This doesn’t take away from our experience at state this year, all of the good teams that we beat or the great season we had,” said Unity Coach Patty Timmermans, whose setter, Erin Wieringa, dished 31 assists while defensively, Danielle Kroeze turned in 17 digs.
“I’m proud of the girls on that great season. They have nothing to be ashamed of. This was quite an accomplishment for our seniors, being here four years in a row and to make it to the championship match.”