Redhawks return to doorstep of state tournament
No. 12 North Tama sweeps Montezuma
The crowd was loud. The stakes were high. The volleyball was enthralling.
Monday night’s matchup between Class 1A No. 12 North Tama and Montezuma was a high-level match of volleyball in the Region 6 semifinals. It was the Redhawks (29-10) who came out on top, advancing with a 3-0 sweep (25-15, 25-21, 25-22).
North Tama’s home crowd was boisterous from the opening serve, but a large contingent of Montezuma fans made the trip to Traer. This made for a charged atmosphere, and each and every point won (or lost) was met with loud cheers.
Redhawks head coach Channing Halstead was pleased with how the team managed the heightened intensity of the game.
“We’re where we want to be and we’re confident,” Halstead said. “We are playing good volleyball.
“We talked about just calming down and doing what we can do. It wasn’t always as smooth as we wanted it to be or as flashy as we wanted it to be.”
Set one began with back-and forth action. But with the score 15-13 in favor of the Redhawks, Halstead said the team knew it had to shore up some issues and made it clear in the huddle during a timeout. The result was a 10-2 run to end the set in favor of North Tama.
Set two began as the first set ended, with an 8-3 run for the Redhawks.
However, the game tightened up — the Braves (22-10) fought back and took the lead on multiple occasions and pushed the Redhawks to the limit. The match was tied 16-16 and 19-19 — but North Tama pieced together a late run and prevailed 25-21 to take a commanding yet tenuous 2-0 lead.
Serving was difficult at times for the Redhawks, as Halstead said the team got a little jazzed up at times. Izzy Hallett coming in to serve and keep the ball in play was an important moment and settled the team down.
“They picked up the slack for as subpar as the rest of our serving was,” Halstead said. “[Izzy’s] just a serving specialist, but that’s a really easy point to learn when she goes back and takes care of business like that. That was huge, we outserved them at that point in the game and it calmed us back down to get us back in rhythm.”
Hallett recorded a team-high three aces in 11 attempts — she also had three errors, second most on the team behind outside hitter Shae Ewoldt’s four. Ewoldt had two aces, as did Lainey Willenbring.
Willenbring and Ewoldt were part of a democratized attack for the Redhawks with five and seven kills, respectively. Setter Jadyn Rausch led the team with 10 kills and 24 assists, with her role as the team’s offensive fulcrum again paying dividends.
North Tama led for much of the third set, keeping the Braves at an arm’s length through some intense volleys and late runs. Leading the Redhawks in digs was defensive specialist/libero Kaitlyn Calderwood with 15, followed by Rausch with 10. Ewoldt had seven and Aubree Monat added five. Breanna Sebetka played strong net defense and contributed four blocks, half of the team’s eight. Ewoldt added three and Monat had the final block.
A last-gasp run from Montezuma cut the gap from 24-18 to 24-22, but the Redhawks ground out the final point to seal victory.
Up next for the Redhawks is a Regional Final with No. 4 Lisbon Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Van Horne. Lisbon has never made it to the state tournament in volleyball, while North Tama is searching for its first state trip since 2019.
Halstead said the team is going to be ready for the moment.
“We have done this before, and a lot of the girls on this team have,” Halstead said. “Last year and what it was, with COVID and the mess we ran into in the postseason, we’re just lucky to have this opportunity right now. The girls earned it, I mean, these girls play a lot of volleyball and they play a lot of volleyball together.
“It’s just a matter of going out and executing what we know we can do and not overdoing things.”