CEDAR RAPIDS — The Van Buren County High School volleyball team's season ended in 53 minutes.
The journey to get to that point, however, will last a lifetime.
The Warriors saw their record-setting season end in disappointing fashion, as they lost to third-ranked Dyersville Beckman 25-18, 25-11, 25-14 in Wednesday's Class 2A state quarterfinal match at the U.S. Cellular Center.
"We knew that getting here was going to be huge for us. I think anyone who starts their volleyball career hopes it ends here," said senior Grace Davidson, who had six kills and five digs in her final match. "But this was probably the best team we faced. I hope they go ahead and win it all."
If that happens, the Trailblazers (41-8), who face Clarion-Goldfield-Dows (30-6) in today's semifinals, have standout Jada Wills to thank for it. Wills, a Dubuque Hempstead transfer, had 11 kills and 11 digs, but as the match went on, she had help as Beckman rolled after surviving a tough opening game.
"We just stayed confident, and winning that first set was definitely a momentum boost," Wills said. "We always try to get that first one. All of our players do their job, and we win for each other."
The Warriors (32-5) took a 15-13 lead in a tight first game when Salena Sayre put down a kill, but the Trailblazers then got hot from the service line, scoring five points in a row, then finishing strong after Van Buren County closed within 20-17. An ace by Ashley Engelken gave Beckman the win.
"It really motivated us when we got the lead there, but even though we lost those last couple points, we felt like if we played our game we would be fine," said Sayre, who also had six kills in the match. "It was frustrating because their blocking was better than what we saw on film. They're a well-rounded team."
Van Buren County coach Matt Zeitler, who coached his final match with the program after eight years and will devote more time to his farming, praised his team for getting to the state tournament.
"Big atmosphere, really great for the kids," he said. "We didn't play our best today, but they never quit, and they never have for me. Beckman has good volleyball players, but I'm proud as crap with my team."
Beckman took the momentum from winning the opener and cruised in the next two games. The Trailblazers found holes in the Warriors' defense, served to tough spots and simply had Van Buren County out of rhythm.
The Trailblazers opened a 10-4 lead in the second, then pushed it to 17-7 when Paige McDermott got a block on 6-foot-3 Taryn Scheuermann, who led the Warriors with nine kills. An ace by Wills finished put the Trailblazers on the cusp of a sweep.
Beckman then took a 7-2 lead in the third game before the Warriors got within 15-9 on an ace by Logan Schmitt. Van Buren County got within 19-14, but no closer as the Trailblazers finished off the sweep.
"Mistakes are normal, but we just couldn't get the ball up and get our passes," Sayre said. "They came out pretty hard in the second and third games."
"It was definitely frustrating to get the swings, but not getting anything out of them," Davidson said. "They had a good back row. We didn't play our best, but they're one of the best we've seen."
As for the season, the Warriors were at their most most nights. Just not the most important one of the season.
"It's been a good time," Zeitler said. "What a better way than to end your season at state."
Class 2A state quarterfinal
at Cedar Rapids
Dyersville Beckman 25-25-25, Van Buren County 18-11-14
Van Buren County statistics
Kills — Taryn Scheuermann 9, Salena Sayre 6, Grace Davidson 6, Chloe Davidson 2, Ella Jirak, Isabel Manning, Chelsey Huff
Assists — Madison Bartholomew 11, Logan Schmitt 11
Serving (aces) — Bartholomew 3, Schmitt 2, Sayre, Manning
Blocks — C.Davidson
Digs — Bartholomew 6, Sayre 5, G.Davidson 5, Schmitt 3, Manning 3, C.Davidson 2.
Dyersville Beckman statistics
Kills — Jada Wills 11, Kiersten Schmitt 10, Paige McDermott 7, Chloe Ungs 7, Kylee Rueber 4, Haley LeGrand, Jordan Helle
Assists — Makayla Koelker 17, Schmitt 13, Leah Wessels 5, Olivia Hogan 3, Wills
Serving (aces) — Ashley Engelken 5, Wessels 3, Wills 2, McDermott, Koelker
Blocks — McDermott 2, Schmitt 2, Rueber 2, Keeley Schmitt 2
Digs — Hogan 12, Wills 11, Engelken 5, McDermott 4, Koelker 2, Ki.Schmitt, Wessels, Ke.Schmitt
Records: Van Buren County 32-5, Dyersville Beckman 41-8.