Ever since his team lost to Mediapolis for the SEI Superconference tournament championship, Van Buren County High School volleyball coach Matt Zeitler said he's been a restless sleeper.

Then the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union put any postseason concerns to bed.

The Warriors have arguably the best draw they've had in any sport, as the regional pairings were released Tuesday. Van Buren County, a fixture in the Class 2A top five most of the season, will face no teams currently ranked as it tries to reach its first state tournament.

So what does it have? Five teams on the bottom half with a combined 39 wins, just 12 more than Van Buren County's total. It's a regional that stretches all the way to Mount Ayr in the southwest part of the state.

"In the 14 years or so since I've been doing this, we've never had a bracket like this," Zeitler said. "I'm happy because we set our schedule up to try to benefit us, win, lose or draw.

"Now, we have to go prove it."

Van Buren County will open with Cardinal in Class 2A Region 5 quarterfinal, as the Warriors could have two home matches before the regional final. The Comets have been able to battle the Warriors for stretches, but not for a full match. Even then, the Warriors could see a Pella Christian team that plays a Class 3A and 4A schedule in the regional semifinals.

"We could be facing our toughest opponent right off the bat," he said. "When we lost to Mediapolis, I was hoping one bad set against them wasn't going to cost us. I think the state kind of had their minds made up who the top four or five teams are. Are we a top-four team? Sometimes we are, sometimes we aren't."

The Warriors are ranked seventh, dropping three spots with that loss to Mediapolis and another to 1A-ranked New London. The teams directly ahead of Van Buren County — Mediapolis and Wilton — both will have to go through ranked teams to reach state. Pekin, which is in Region 6, hosts Danville in a first-round match, with the winner going to Mediapolis.

Fair or not, the Warriors have a favorable draw.

"I think the state finally looked at this South Division of the conference and saw the parity, that there are a lot of good teams down here," Zeitler said. "I thought we might go west, but I about fell off the chair when I was told of the bracket.

"I wanted to see if there was something wrong with it."

Ottumwa saw no change in its postseason opener. The Bulldogs, despite a 16-12 mark, will start the Class 5A Region 3 postseason at Indianola, site of last year's regional-opening sweep by the Indians. The winner of that match will visit Southeast Polk, which swept the Bulldogs in a CIML crossover match earlier in the season. The top half of that bracket features Des Moines Lincoln and Waukee.

In fact, four of the teams are the same as last season; Southeast Polk is in the bracket this year instead of Urbandale.

In Class 3A, Albia was rewarded for its strong season, which is at 21 wins and counting. The Lady Dees are the No. 2 seed in Region 8 to second-ranked West Liberty, and could have up to two home matches as well. Albia will open with Chariton, and the Lady Dees are currently 3-1 against their pod of Chariton, Davis County and Centerville.

Albia was a regional finalist last season before losing to Davenport Assumption, and has never been to the state tournament, while Davis County last made the trip in 2001.

"We have a tough draw in our bracket, but having all four teams from our conference on our side, we are familiar with our opponents," Albia coach Missy Dustin said. "This could go both ways. One of our advantages is that we have six front-row hitters that can put the ball down from any position, which I believe leaves us a little more versatile than our opponents at times."

EBF, which benefited from two home matches last season despite a losing record to get to a 3A regional final against Tipton, will have to play on the road this season. The Rockets open with Williamsburg, with the winner of that match likely heading to Tipton. The bottom half features four teams from central Iowa.

In Class 4A, Fairfield and Mount Pleasant will renew their rivalry in a Region 8 quarterfinal in Mount Pleasant. Both teams have struggled this season with a combined nine wins, but the Panthers have claimed two matchups this season, including one in five games after losing the first two. The winner of their match goes to North Scott; Burlington is the No. 2 seed in the bracket and hosts either Keokuk or Fort Madison.

Zeitler is aware of the trek in front of his team, and he knows his players are as well.

"They're smart kids," he said. "The key will be keeping them prepared. We finally got the draw we all wanted, but now we have to prove we're good enough to get to and play in Cedar Rapids."

The Class 2A postseason begins Oct. 22, while 3A, 4A and 5A begin Oct. 23. The state tournament is Nov. 12-15 at the U.S. Cellular Center.


Girls regional volleyball pairings

Regional champions advance to state tournament Nov. 12-15 at U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids

Matches begin at 7 p.m. unless noted

CLASS 2A

Region 5

First round

Tuesday, Oct. 22

at Pella

Interstate 35 vs. Pella Christian

at Stuart

Panorama vs. West Central Valley

Quarterfinals

Monday, Oct. 28

at Keosauqua

Cardinal vs. Van Buren

at Pleasantville

Interstate 35/Pella Christian winner vs. Pleasantville

at Mount Ayr

Nodaway Valley vs. Mount Ayr

at Earlham

Panorama/West Central Valley winner vs. Earlham

Semifinals

Thursday, Oct. 31

at Keosauqua

Quarterfinal winners

at Mount Ayr

Quarterfinal winners

Regional final

Tuesday, Nov. 5

TBD

Region 6

First round

Monday, Oct. 22

at Packwood

Danville vs. Pekin

at LeGrand

Colfax-Mingo vs. East Marshall

Quarterfinals

Monday, Oct. 28

at Mediapolis

Danville/Pekin winner vs. Mediapolis

at Wapello

Louisa-Muscatine vs. Wapello

at Hudson

Colfax-Mingo/East Marshall winner vs. Hudson

at Iowa City

Columbus vs. Iowa City Regina

Semifinals

Thursday, Oct. 31

at Mediapolis

Quarterfinal winners

at Hudson

Quarterfinal winners

Regional final

Tuesday, Nov. 5

at TBD

•••

CLASS 3A

Region 7

Quarterfinals

Wednesday, Oct. 23

at Tipton

South Tama vs. Tipton

at Williamsburg

EBF vs. Williamsburg

at Nevada

PCM vs. Nevada

at Alleman

West Marshall vs. North Polk

Semifinals

Tuesday, Oct. 29

at Tipton

Quarterfinal winners

at Nevada

Quarterfinal winners

Regional final

Monday, Nov. 4

at Van Horne

Semifinal winners

Region 8

Quarterfinals

Wednesday, Oct. 23

at West Liberty

Mid-Prairie vs. West Liberty

at West Burlington

Central Lee vs. West Burlington

at Albia

Chariton vs. Albia

at Bloomfield

Centerville vs. Davis County

Semifinals

Tuesday, Oct. 29

at West Liberty

Quarterfinal winners

at Albia

Quarterfinal winners

•••

CLASS 4A

Region 8

Quarterfinals

Wednesday, Oct. 23

at Mount Pleasant

Fairfield vs. Mount Pleasant

at Fort Madison

Keokuk vs. Fort Madison

Semifinals

Tuesday, Oct. 29

at Eldridge

Quarterfinal winner

at Burlington

Quarterfinal winner

Regional final

Monday, Nov. 4

at highest remaining ranked team

TBD

•••

CLASS 5A

Region 3

Quarterfinals

Wednesday, Oct. 23

at Indianola

Ottumwa vs. Indianola

Semifinals

Tuesday, Oct. 29

at Waukee

Des Moines Lincoln vs. Waukee

at Pleasant Hill

Ottumwa/Indianola winner vs. Southeast Polk

Regional final

Monday, Nov. 4

at highest remaining ranked team

TBD

— Chad Drury can be reached at cdrury@ottumwacourier.com, and on Twitter @ChadDrury

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