Redhawks rocket to No. 3

Young roster maintains credibility on the court

Redhawk Kruiz Ewoldt (9) fires the ball across the net during match play with Union last Saturday while her teammates Addy Hochstetler, left, and Izzy Hallett, right, watch and wait for the results. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

TRAER – In just the first week of the 2023-24 season, Redhawk volleyball has rocketed in the rankings, from No. 15 to No. 3 – taking down every 1A opponent they’ve faced while also competing with several ranked teams including 3A No. 4 Union last Saturday at the North Tama Volleyball Tournament.

“We haven’t lost to a 1A team this season,” head coach Channing Halstead said on Sunday the day after the tournament in a text exchange with the Telegraph. “All our losses have come to ranked teams in other classes [including] yesterday.”

The annual Labor Day weekend tournament held in Traer has in recent years attracted a strong line-up of teams including not just powerhouse Union but also 2A No. 3 Grundy Center, AGWSR, and reigning state runner-up Gladbrook-Reinbeck.

On Saturday, the Redhawks faced Grundy Center in the morning – dropping both sets – in a match sandwiched between wins against HLV 2-0 (21-15, 21-12) and Dunkerton 2-0 (21-9, 21-15). North Tama exited pool play in second behind the Spartans, setting themselves up to face the Knights – who exited pool play in first – in the second match of the championship bracket.

While the Redhawks lost both sets (22-25, 23-25) to the neighboring Knights, the teams appeared closely matched with North Tama rallying several times during the two sets.

Redhawk junior Kylie Calderwood prepares to serve last Saturday afternoon during North Tama’s first set with Union. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

“After 20-20 in the second set there were two questionable calls that I thought should’ve been two obvious points for us,” Halstead said. “When the control is taken out of your hands like that it’s really frustrating on me as a coach, and on the kids. But I have nothing else to complain about as our kids battled and battled – shows what they’re capable of.”

Following the win against North Tama, the Knights lost to Grundy Center 2-0 (12-25, 20-25) in the championship match.

Stats were not available for the tournament in time for publication.

New group blazes familiar path

Redhawk volleyball graduated five powerful players last year – Shae Ewoldt, Ireland Harmsen, Jade Rausch, Breanna Sebetka, and Lainey Willenbring — who helped propel the team to a No. 1 ranking and state tournament appearance. While their absence has certainly been felt, this year’s team is already showing that North Tama’s strength on the court persists.

Kruiz Ewoldt (9) is congratulated by her teammates after winning a hard fought point against the Union Knights during Match 2 of the North Tama Volleyball Tournament’s championship bracket. The Redhawks rallied several times against the Knights but ultimately came up short in both sets, sending Union on to the championship match against Grundy Center. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

“Coming into this season no one expected much of us as we graduated five awesome seniors. But we knew what we were capable of, and built confidence over the summer at team camps and open gyms,” Halstead said. “The girls all have been positive with me and each other. And that is really starting to shine.”

North Tama’s roster this season includes just one returning senior, Izzy Hallett, while starter Briar Blake, a junior, has been sidelined until October due to an injury she sustained during last year’s inaugural girls wrestling season.

“We are super young and don’t have a lot of experience,” Halstead continued. “We have only one senior on our roster. Only two returning consistent rotation players from last year. But many of [our current roster] developed as players and people under last year’s seniors. We are really lucky, our team culture is amazing.”

Both Hallett and sophomore Kruiz Ewoldt – Shae Ewoldt’s younger sister – have been leading the offense thus far this season alongside junior Zoey Rausch, the younger sibling of Jade Rausch.

Defensively, returning libero Addy Hochstetler, a sophomore, has been leading the team alongside Hallett, Rausch, and junior Kylie Calderwood.

North Tama senior Izzy Hallett (5) goes up for the spike during the first set with the Union Knights last Saturday in Traer. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

After a No. 15 preseason ranking, the Redhawks jumped a dozen spots to No. 3 last week following a strong showing at the August 26 Bondurant-Farrar Tournament where they shut out four teams including Williamsburg, Pella Christian, Burlington Catholic Notre Dame, and 1A No. 4 Holy Trinity Catholic — losing only to 4A No. 2 Indianola and 2A Wapsie Valley.

“Our jump to [No. 3] was WOW. But I also feel we earned it by coming out and beating 1A powerhouse Holy Trinity our first weekend out in Bondurant. Now the key will be maturing a little faster than anticipated, and trying to maintain that top 3 ranking. Which will be a whole new experience for this group.”

Entering the week, the Redhawks (7-5) were scheduled to face Gladbrook-Reinbeck on Thursday (September 7) at home, followed by the Linn-Mar Invitational on Saturday in Marion where the potential to face some powerful rosters again looms including several 5A and 4A ranked teams, as well as 3A’s No. 2 Davenport Assumption. But Coach Halstead is unperturbed – her team is ready for the challenge.

“[T]his group … their young personalities shine and we have a lot of fun together. It’s fun to coach a group like them – they just love to play volleyball.”

The Linn-Mar Invitational is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at the high school.

Defensive specialist Grace Kennedy, a junior, pictured serving during the second set of North Tama's match with Union on Saturday afternoon in the Redhawk Nest in Traer. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER