CEDAR RAPIDS — There is little downtime for Van Buren County High School coach Matt Zeitler these days. There is replying to the hundreds of text messages in the past few days, and there are the first girls basketball practices to oversee.
Most importantly, there is work to do in the state volleyball tournament.
The seventh-seed Warriors (32-4) qualified for a girls state tournament for the first time in school history, and will face second-seeded Dyersville Beckman (40-8) in a Class 2A quarterfinal match at 2 p.m. today on Court Two at the U.S. Cellular Center.
“This is the most relaxed I’ve seen this team in a long time,” said Zeitler, whose team has set a school record for wins. “But they’re also not going to lay down for anyone. I don’t think the pressure is on us, so we can just go out there and play hard.”
The 2A bracket is fairly wide open, but several teams had to gut through tough regional final matches to get to state. Van Buren County, however, has gotten better with each round in the bracket, and it’s translated into the number of games in each match. The Warriors started out with a five-game nail-biter against Cardinal, a four-game win over Pella Christian, and then a sweep over Nodaway Valley in the regional final.
“I think the girls are really just treating this as another match,” Zeitler said. “Once they got that win in the regional final, there was a big sigh of relief. They were calm and collected, and then they got back to work.”
The Warriors have a well-balanced attack led by outside hitter Salena Sayre, who will likely surpass 500 kills for the season against Beckman. Sayre leads a group of six senior starters, and fellow seniors Grace Davidson (300 kills, 411 digs) and Taryn Scheuermann (261 kills, 100 blocks) area a tough matchup at the net.
Van Buren County, however, plays stellar defense. Libero Isabel Manning leads 2A in digs, and the hitters also know how to play defense.
Dyersville Beckman may not have the fancy stats, but the Trailblazers know the environment of the state tournament. They were semifinalists last season, but have just one starter returning from that team. Still, outside hitter Jada Wills (474 kills) is a handful.
“She’s just a good volleyball player,” Zeitler said. “What we have to do is be able to get her out of the front row, and then we can make our run. Beckman has some holes that I think we can find.
“I think this is a match where if we can get them down, our kids’ age could be a factor. I see it as a 50-50 match. Whoever plays hardest and makes the least amount of mistakes will win.”
One of the keys to Van Buren County has been the leadership of the seniors. All of them have seen improvement in their game, and they haven’t shied away from big moments. The Warriors are peaking at the right time.
“Taryn is playing the best volleyball I’ve seen in her play in four years,” Zeitler said. “The thing we have to be able to do is keep our kids focused if they get down. And I’ve told the kids I will take quick timeouts if that happens, but after that they’re on their own.
“The thing with this team is I don’t have sugar-coat anything for them,” he said. “They’ve seen tons of good volleyball. When we’re playing our game, I don’t think there’s a team here we can’t beat.”