Redhawks revel in another trip to state

The North Tama volleyball team rallies around its fourth state qualifier banner in the last six seasons after Wednesday’s Class 1A Region 4 victory over Southeast Warren at Newton High School. The No. 2 Redhawks swept aside the Warhawks 25-20, 25-12, 25-17, to earn their second straight trip to state. PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

A year ago, the young and spunky Redhawks were a year ahead of schedule, storming into the Class 1A state volleyball semifinals with double-digit losses and an upset victory in the first round.

Now, No. 2 North Tama is right on time.

The Redhawks rolled Southeast Warren in straight sets to advance to the 1A state tournament for the third time in the last four seasons, taking care of the unranked Warhawks 25-20, 25-12, 25-17 in Wednesday’s Region 4 final at Newton High School.

It’s North Tama’s fourth trip to state in six years since making their maiden voyage in 2017, all under head coach Channing Halstead, and it’s right where the Redhawks are supposed to be. A year after flying under the radar and past No. 2 Le Mars Gehlen Catholic in the 1A quarterfinals, all the expectations that return with most of a state-savvy roster to get back to the finale were met.

“Last year we were just so excited to play, so excited for the opportunity, and this year they were maybe a little bit more nervous and it’s a totally different approach,” said Halstead. “All season this year you take away one loss and we’re at No. 1, so these girls have had to go out with that pressure, just the pressure to perform, and I don’t know if we got used to it but we handled it.”


“They were just waiting for that moment for that feeling and they deserve it, 100 percent.”

Senior outside hitter Shae Ewoldt piled up 15 kills, senior middle hitter Breanna Sebetka had 11 kills and senior outside hitter Lainey Willenbring tallied 10 kills as North Tama’s offensive balance was too much for Southeast Warren to bear. The Warhawks (31-15) recorded no blocks at the net and barely offered one where the Redhawks (39-4) set up their attack.

Ewoldt and Willenbring had free swings from the antenna and had tons of success because of it, as Ewoldt hit .520 for the night and Willenbring was at .292. The Redhawks faced a bit more resistance in the middle, where Southeast Warren senior standout Alicia Ruble lurked, but Sebetka (.333) and sophomore Briar Blake (six kills, .200) both had plenty of success with their swings.

As a team, North Tama hit .302 as senior setter Jadyn Rausch tallied 37 assists to go with her five kills.

Nothing was stopping the Redhawks on this night, but they still celebrated the victory with emotion and appreciation.


“It’s honestly so hard to explain,” said Ewoldt. “All the emotions are just mixed into one but in like a good way. My chest is so tight, almost to the point I can’t breathe, but then it’s so relieving when it finally happens.”

“Last year we came in as underdogs, we had nothing to lose, so we were just having fun with it. But this year we had to live up to those expectations and keep it up there so it was a lot more pressure, but we still pulled it off.”

North Tama hit plenty of snags throughout the night, as Southeast Warren’s aggressive serving sent the Redhawks to the back line and made it more challenging to make on-point passes for Rausch. The Warhawks led 15-12 midway through the first set before North Tama scored seven of the next eight points behind Ewoldt’s four kills and a block. Grace Kennedy added an ace to complete the run that returned the momentum to North Tama’s favor for essentially the rest of the night.

The Redhawks used their best run of the night, a six-point surge in the second set, to gain a 19-9 lead. Sebetka had back-to-back kills, as did Willenbring, and Rausch added a block and a kill to spark the rally.

Ewoldt eventually finished off the set with a thunderous kill down the line, and the third game was more of the same. Southeast Warren resisted, but it was futile.


Ruble led the Warhawks with 11 kills but was the only player on her team with more than three.

Kylie Calderwood served 17-for-17 with two aces to lead North Tama, while Willenbring was 13-for-13 with an ace. Kennedy finished 10-for-11 with two aces, and Addison Hochstetler was 10-for-11. Sebetka led the defense with three blocks and Ewoldt had two, while Hochstetler had a team-leading 20 digs.

North Tama goes into the 1A state tournament as the No. 2 seed and will face No. 7 AGWSR (18-23) in the quarterfinals on Tuesday at Xtream Arena in Coralville. The 14th-ranked Cougars swept No. 6 Newell-Fonda to advance to state for the first time since reaching the 1A finals in 2008.

The potential exists for the Redhawks to run into their neighbors and rivals from Gladbrook-Reinbeck as the fourth-ranked Rebels received the third-seed for state and face No. 6 Holy Trinity Catholic in the opposite bracket.

“It’s crazy when you say three out of four years, I never thought of it that way,” Halstead said. “I can’t wait to go check my phone and see all of the alumni that were watching too. I am thankful for stuff like that because these girls wouldn’t be where they are without them either.”


“I think it’s safe to say we have a volleyball program and we’re building tradition. Tradition’s a heavy, heavy word but hopefully we’re getting there.”

North Tama will next face No. 7 AGWSR (18-23) on Tuesday, November 1 at 6:00 p.m. on COURT TWO in the Class 1A State Quarterfinals.