By SCOTT JACKSON
Courier sports writer
---- — CEDAR RAPIDS — Prior to this week, several prep volleyball programs throughout the state had earned wins at the Iowa Girls High School Volleyball Tournament.
Prior to this week, Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont was not one of those programs.
That was prior to this week.
This week is over, as is the 2013 Iowa high school volleyball season. Teams will return to practice and return to the volleyball court for a new season next August with the same goal of making it to and winning at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids next November.
When next August rolls around, EBF won’t be one of those programs dreaming of one day succeeding at state. EBF will be one of those programs expecting to succeed at state.
“That’s the plan for next year,” sophomore Karlie Taylor said after earning a place on the 2013 Class 2A All-Tournament team with 43 kills, including a tournament-best 6.14 kills per game.
Some would say that the bar has been lifted to a fairly high place for the Rocket volleyball program. Head coach Gladys Genskow would say that’s nothing new for this team.
“It seems like the bar has risen all season long,” Genskow said. “The expectations were high this year with all the talent we had on the team. The expectations will be the same for us next year.”
It’s a level-headed approach for a team that made the program’s second trip ever to state a mission rather than a hope at the start of this year. EBF didn’t play like a team that was just simply grateful to have an opportunity to play with the top teams in Class 2A in 2013.
The Rockets went down playing like they belonged with the best teams in Class 2A. Six of seven returning starters should keep them among the best in the state next year as well.
“It will be tough to replace our one senior, Tasha Alexander. She was a great senior and her overall game is just as great,” Genskow said. “Otherwise, we have the same camaraderie of kids all coming back. The expectations, which will continue to be high, will still be there next year.”
Several of those returning EBF spikers left a lasting imprint on the state tournament. Taylor had the single most kills in one match of any player in the 2A field when she crushed 33 in her state tournament debut, leading the Rockets to the program’s first state tournament win in a four-game victory over Council Bluffs St. Albert.
Junior Sadie Baugher was a perfect 32-32 serving the ball on the state tournament stage with the sixth-most aces (3) in the 2A Tournament. Only Lizzy Blough of two-time state champ Dike-New Hartford was more accurate behind the service line.
Junior setter Paige Shafer finished third in the tournament with 77 assists, topped only by two players (Western Christian’s Jamie Gesink and Dike-New Hartford’s Rachel Koop) that moved on to an extra match by playing in the 2A state title contest. Shafer was also second to Gesink with 11 assists per game while freshman Haegen Boyer matched Alexander with 33 digs, fifth-most in the 2A tournament.
In other words, don’t expect EBF to trend downward after finishing among the 2A’s final four teams for the first time ever. If anything, the Rockets should be expected to return to elite level of a state semifinal next season.
Not that it will be easy by any stretch of the imagination.
“We did what we could this year,” Genskow said. “We’ve just got to keep moving forward and hope for the best for next year.”
EBF also finished this season seeing up close what it takes to be an elite team on Thursday. The ‘Dynasty at Dike’ continued when Dike-New Hartford defended its 2A state title Friday with a four-game win over Western Christian, one day after ending the Rockets’ best season yet with a sweep in the 2A state semifinals.
But even that loss, according to Genskow, can be used as a stepping stone in the history of the EBF volleyball program.
“We just kept trying to play our game and kept trying to do what we do even going against the type of talent and the type of height that (Dike-New Hartford) had,” Genskow said. “For as hard as the ball was hit at us in that match, it’s amazing our girls were able to dig up as many balls as they did.”
“Those are some of the things we can keep plugging along with as we head into next year. In the end, I think the girls had a good time here at state. Even to get the opportunity to play a team like (Dike-New Hartford) is an opportunity not every team gets. We still played hard and we still played well. That’s something else to build on.”
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STATE TOURNAMENT VOLLEYBALL
Class 2A Semifinals
Dike-New Hartford 25-25-25
Serving — Sadie Baugher 10-10, Karlie Taylor 7-9, Tasha Alexander 7-10, Haegen Boyer 5-5, Taylor Leffler 5-7, Paige Shafer 4-6. Team 38-47. Aces — Taylor. Team — 1.
Hitting — Alexander 27-28, Taylor 25-39, Leffler 10-11, McKinley Moore 5-8, Baugher 4-4, Shafer 2-2. Team 73-92. Kills — Taylor 10, Alexander 6, Leffler 4, Baugher 3, Shafer. Team — 24.
Setting — Shafer 20, Boyer, Leffler. Team — 22.
Blocks — Moore 3, Baugher 2, Alexander, Leffler. Team — 7.
Digs — Boyer 12, Alexander 9, Taylor 7, Baugher 4, Moore 2, Shafer 2. Team — 36.
Serving — Lizzy Blough 21-21, Briana Weber 14-15, Sam Meyer 13-13, Kristi Koch 10-10, Taylor Hedges 7-8, Rachel Koop 6-6. Team 71-73. Aces — Koch 3, Meyer 2, Blough, Hedges. Team — 7.
Hitting — Weber 30-38, Blough 15-16, Brooke Morgan 11-14, Koop 7-7, Sadie Eden 5-7, Ashley Dumler 3-5, Meyer 0-1. Team 71-88. Kills — Weber 17, Blough 6, Morgan 6, Koop 4, Eden 3, Dumler 2. Team — 38.
Setting — Koop 26, Blough 2, Hedges 2, Meyer 2, Weber 2, Eden. Team — 35.
Blocks — Morgan 6, Koop 3, Weber 3, Blough, Dumler. Team — 14.
Digs — Blough 10, Hedges 9, Meyer 9, Weber 7, Koop 6, Eden 2, Morgan 2, Koch. Team — 46.
2013 Class 2A All-Tournament Volleyball Team
Brooke Morgan, Dike-New Hartford
Alissa Pollema, Western Christian
Karlie Taylor, Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont
Rachel Koop, Dike-New Hartford
Haley Moss, Western Christian
Jamie Gesink, Western Christian
Briana Weber, Dike-New Hartford (captain)