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Redhawks resist Rebels, settle for 2nd

Top-ranked North Tama topples third-rated Gladbrook-Reinbeck, falls to 2A No. 12 Grundy Center

Members of the North Tama volleyball team celebrate one of the final points of the Redhawks’ three-set victory over Gladbrook-Reinbeck in the semifinals of the North Tama Tournament on Saturday in Traer. Class 1A’s top-ranked Redhawks beat the third-rated Rebels 25-19, 22-25, 15-8, before falling to 2A No. 12 Grundy Center in the championship match. PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

A nailbiter of a debut as the top-ranked volleyball team in Class 1A didn’t carry for North Tama.

Instead the Redhawks played their best yet, even though they had to settle for second place.

North Tama knocked off HLV, Independence and 2A No. 12 Grundy Center in pool play before fighting off 1A No. 3 Gladbrook-Reinbeck in the championship semifinals.

Grundy Center came back to sweep the Redhawks in the tournament title match, but North Tama felt no shame following its first loss of the season. In fact, it instilled a strange amount of belief for a traditional small-class powerhouse.

“If you would have told me after these first two loaded weeks that we were 11-1, I don’t know if I would have believed you,” said North Tama head coach Channing Halstead. “I know we have it in us, but to leave here with one loss?

North Tama middle hitter Breanna Sebetka (3) goes for the tip over Gladbrook-Reinbeck defenderes Megan Cooley (17) and Ava Wyatt (6) during Saturday’s semifinal match of the North Tama Tournament in Traer. Setter Jadyn Rausch (2) looks on for the Redhawks, who won the match in three sets. PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

“Grundy Center turned it on when they needed to — they were better at the end of the day. I told the girls I don’t expect them to go 50-0, but I’m beginning to believe in them. I mean, I do, but I’m beginning to believe in them more.”

North Tama tallied a three-set win over No. 5 Ankeny Christian Academy to win the Meskwaki Tournament the opening weekend, but Grundy Center proved to be too much the second time around. The Redhawks (11-1) rolled through HLV (21-4, 21-8), rallied past Independence (17-21, 21-18, 15-5) and swept the Spartans (21-14, 21-18) to win their pool and set up a showdown with neighbor and archrival Gladbrook-Reinbeck in the semifinals.

After dropping a back-and-forth opening set, the Rebels (5-3) romped to a 21-12 lead in game two. It was 23-14 after consecutive kills by Ava Wyatt, but North Tama scored five straight — and eight of the next nine — to climb to within 24-22. Megan Cooley’s kill finished the set and forced a deciding third, but the Redhawks’ comeback built up more momentum than Gladbrook-Reinbeck could withstand.

North Tama took a modest early advantage before a 3-0 spurt proved too much for the Rebels to come back from. Briar Blake scored a kill, Izzy Hallett had a service ace and Shae Ewoldt hammered down a kill to make it 12-6 in the first-to-15 decider. Another Ewoldt kill, a block by Lainey Willenbring and a net violation by the Rebels rounded out the Redhawk victory.

“I thought we came ready to play,” said G-R head coach Paula Kelley. “I thought at times we were playing a little bit more on our heels than I would have liked, but we came back strong and really took it to them in game two. We let them back in a little bit there at the end, which I think let them have the momentum. I really wish we could have closed the door a little bit better.”

PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

It closed a 2-2 day and a 2-3 week for the Rebels, who won their opening tournament in Montezuma only to find a four-set defeat in Thursday’s NICL West Division opener at 2A No. 10 South Hardin.

G-R finished second in its pool to 3A No. 9 Union Community with a 21-19, 21-17 loss to the Knights in the first match of the day. The Rebels outlasted 1A No. 4 Dunkerton (21-7, 11-21, 15-12) and held off previously ranked AGWSR (21-11, 17-21, 15-12) before bowing to nemesis North Tama in the semifinals.

Wyatt led the Rebels with 37 kills for the day, adding 17 digs and 24-for-26 serving with two aces. Megan Cooley accumulated 26 kills and team-highs of five blocks and 23 digs while serving 37-for-39 with eight aces. Lily Dripps chipped in 13 kills and four blocks, Kennedy Brant tallied 10 kills and two blocks, and setter Emma McClintock totaled 78 assists and 21 digs.

Madisyn Eggers stepped in to serve 38-for-38 with two aces, and Abby Sienknecht was 35-for-35 with two aces. Both made 16 digs, and libero Breehan Dubberke added 15 digs and five aces.

Grundy Center (12-2) dispatched Union (10-1) in straight sets, 25-6, 25-13, to earn another shot at North Tama in the tournament finals, and the Spartans soaked it in. Carlie Willis piled up 19 kills in the title bout alone, leading Grundy Center to a 27-25, 25-18 victory.

PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

The last thing the Redhawks were going to do, however, was hang their heads about a loss to one of the state’s regular superpowers.

“We did a lot better than we all expected,” said North Tama senior setter Jadyn Rausch. “We kind of suprised oursevles and I think just now we know that we earned the No. 1 spot. There’s a lot of competition here, this was a big tournament, so coming off a not-so-good game on Thursday it was sometimes a roller coaster today.”

Rausch racked up 82 assists in four matches, adding 24 kills and 22 digs. Ewoldt led the way with 31 kills, Willenbring added 25, and middle hitters Breanna Sebetka and Blake had 15 and 13 kills, respectively.

The Redhawks compiled 30 service aces but offset them with 19 errors. Kylie Calderwood racked up seven aces while Hallett had six, Rausch five and Addison Hochstetler four. Hochstetler, one of the team’s two freshmen starters, drove the defense with 46 digs. Hallett had 19 and Willenbring added 17 more. Blake and Ewoldt led the way with four blocks apiece, while Sebetka, Rausch and Kruiz Ewoldt tallied three each.

“You want to get that experience early and hopefully build off of it,” Halstead said. “We just want to see as much and get as much experience as possible. We have experience but we’ve got to work through these competetive games early and hopefully it pays dividends in the end.”

PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

The top-ranked Redhawks’ only match this week is a rematch with No. 3 Gladbrook-Reinbeck on Thursday in Reinbeck.

“I’m sure they’ll be out for blood,” Halstead added. “We exposed a lot of their weaknesses today so we’ll see if they fix them come Thursday or not.

“Being No. 1 is scary because the only way to go is down. It’s just a different view and we’re learning and I thought today with the competition we did a pretty good job of proving we are deserving to be in that top-3.”

North Tama Tournament

Red Pool

North Tama def. HLV, 21-4, 21-8

Grundy Center def. Independence, 21-9, 21-12

North Tama def. Independence, 17-21, 21-18, 15-5

Grundy Center def. HLV, 21-15, 21-5

Independence def. HLV, 21-10, 21-11

North Tama def. Grundy Center, 21-14, 21-18

White Pool

Union def. Gladbrook-Reinbeck, 21-19, 21-17

AGWSR def. Dunkerton, 19-21, 21-19, 15-12

Union def. AGWSR, 21-16, 23-21

Gladbrook-Reinbeck def. Dunkerton, 21-7, 11-21, 15-12

Gladbrook-Reinbeck def. AGWSR, 21-11, 17-21, 15-12

Union def. Dunkerton, 16-21, 21-17, 16-14

Consolation Bracket

Semifinals

AGWSR def. Independence, 25-13, 25-16

Dunkerton def. HLV, no score

Consolation Championship

AGWSR def. Dunkerton, 25-19, 25-14

Championship Bracket

Semifinals

North Tama def. Gladbrook-Reinbeck, 25-19, 22-25, 15-8

Grundy Center def. Union, 25-6, 25-13

Championship Final

Grundy Center def. North Tama, 27-25, 25-18