Under coach Halstead, No. 1 Redhawks build a tradition

The 2022-2023 North Tama volleyball team pictured along with the team's coaching staff including head coach Channing Halstead (far right). PHOTO COURTESY OF AMY LIDGETT

‘Respect the name.’

That’s the 2022-2023 motto for the Redhawks girls volleyball team. But which name deserves the ultimate respect when it comes to North Tama volleyball these days? Is it the Redhawks themselves or is it head coach Channing Halstead? This reporter would like to argue the two cannot be separated.

Coach Halstead and her team are building a tradition.

When asked last week to talk about the legacy she appears to be building at North Tama, Halstead didn’t shy away from addressing it but placed a lot of the team’s success – North Tama is currently ranked No. 1 in Class 1A and has been for two weeks running – on her players.

“There’s a tradition brewing,” Halstead said. “[But] tradition is kind of a heavy word, I feel, because as a 1A school you’re going to have your ups and downs – because you’re a small school, it just happens. I like to think that there’s a tradition being built and hopefully there are younger kids that will watch them and want to be them.”

Halstead herself has been that younger kid. As a Vinton-Shellsburg graduate, she’s been playing volleyball – much of it under the keen eye of her mother, coach Madonna Madorin who now coaches the junior high team at North Tama – since fifth grade.

“I look back and we were so lucky, my class,” Halstead said. “We had a mom that took us to basketball. My mom did volleyball. Another family and my mom did softball. We always had really good people around us and really good influences around us.”

Halstead paused before adding, “Here I am, 20 some years later, still loving it. They must have done something right. It’s one of those full-circle things.”

Today, Halstead – a 10-year veteran coach at North Tama – leads a powerhouse team captained by returning seniors Lainey Willenbring and Jadyn Rausch, players who have risen through the ranks under Halstead’s guidance.

“This group playing now used to get beat on by the Koprivas in practice. That was a big influence on them,” Halstead said referring to cousins Takoa and Katie Kopriva who set many of the volleyball records at North Tama.

But the maturity and commitment of her team today as they sit atop the early season rankings is what really sets them apart, Halstead said.

“Mentally we’re solid. Not riding any waves. We get ready to go but we don’t get too wound up. We’re very mature with how we’re handling things right now. … The [players] do a really good job of trusting me, letting me move them around to try and do what’s best for the sake of all of them.”

“Commitment’s huge when you want to be where we are [No. 1],” Halstead continued. “You can’t show up half the time. If you want to be number one, you have to show up all the time.”

Facing No. 3 G-R

This past Thursday, Sept. 8, that commitment was necessary as the No. 1 Redhawks faced one of their biggest rivals – third-ranked (at the time) Gladbrook-Reinbeck. A team North Tama had not beat since 2018.

North Tama took down G-R in the first two sets (25-23, 25-23) before losing the third.

“We had opportunities to put it away [in the third] but we had untimely errors, too many untimely errors,” Halstead said. “[We] had more errors than kills.”

But in the fourth set, the Redhawks set their sights on the win and made it happen, beating the Rebels 25-19 and taking the match.

“The fourth one we put the gas pedal on and kept going, we didn’t mess around and have as many errors,” Halstead said. “I thought we should have put them away a little bit more than we did. But [G-R is] very experienced. And they have had a lot of successes.”

Two players Halstead wanted to highlight from the game with G-R were her middle players, senior middle hitter Breanna Sebetka and freshman libero Addison Hochstetler.

“I thought two bright spots of the night were Breanna and Addy,” Halstead said. “We’ve been talking about in practice, how we want to get our middles more involved because we can beat people through the middle. That hasn’t been a strength of ours for a while and it is right now. Breanna really stepped up and led us in kills. She gave us a lot for the middle.”

Halstead said the team’s passing was also phenomenal against G-R, citing Hochstetler as a key part of that success.

The one loss the Redhawks have sustained thus far in the season came during their home tournament two weekends ago against Grundy Center. The Redhawks lost to the Spartans in the championship round in two sets (21-14, 21-18).

“I think Grundy [Center] was just really hot at that time,” Halstead said. “They had come off just smoking Union [Knights] before us. They were riding pretty high. We had them 22-20 and didn’t put them away.”

As Coach Halstead looks ahead to the middle and end of the 2022-2023 season, she expressed confidence her team will continue to carry the burden – the target – that seems to go hand-in-hand with being No. 1.

“The older girls are doing a very good job of leading,” Halstead said before admitting their leadership has given her a confidence booster, too – something she said doesn’t always come easy despite the tough facade she can display at times on the sidelines.

“These kids right now, I feel so much better about myself because of these kids. They love being there. They saved my passion for the game.”

Respect is most certainly a two-way street in Redhawk country.

After facing GMG (4-3) in a conference match-up this Thursday on the road, North Tama will travel to Springville High School on Saturday, Sept. 17 for the Springville Varsity Tournament.

The Springville Orioles were ranked No. 2 in Class 1A (Week 3) heading into the week of Sept. 12.