Union volleyball earns return trip to the state tournament

Knights mop up West Delaware 3-1 in regional final at home

Members of the Union Knights volleyball team pictured on Tuesday, Oct. 24 in the high school main gym in La Porte City following their win 3-1 over West Delaware for both the Class 3A Region 5 championship and a trip to the 2023 state tournament. Pictured front row (l-r) Addie Pospisil, Avery Knoop, Jaimi Hilmer, captain Gracie Klima, Hinley Mast, Abbie Estling, and Ava Mehlert; back row (l-r) Sophya Taylor, Taylen Smith, Hailey Petersen, Laikyn Ewoldt, Dena Robb, Sydney Schmuecker, Bianca Grimm, Reagan Glenn, and Emily Anton. Union head coach Brian Jesse, and assistant coaches Barry Jesse, Haylee Keune, and Beth Harting are not pictured. PHOTO COURTESY OF SUMMER MAST

LA PORTE CITY – For the second year running, the Union Knights volleyball team is state tournament-bound!

Last week Tuesday, Oct. 24 in La Porte City, the Knights beat the West Delaware Hawks 3-1 (25-16, 27-25, 25-27, 25-22) for both the Class 3A Region 5 championship and a back-to-back, return trip to the state tournament.

Like last year, the Knights head to the tournament at XTREAM Arena in Coralville with a roster of top-ranked talent including the No. 1 players in Class 3A for assists and kills – junior Avery Knoop and senior Gracie Klima, respectively.

But unlike last year, the team hopes to make it beyond the first round this time.

Regional final

Members of the Union Knights volleyball team hug on the court while their teammates swarm from the sidelines after winning the fourth set against the West Delaware Hawks and capturing the regional championship plus a trip to the state tournament in the process. PHOTO BY KAYLA ROBB

Last Tuesday, the No. 8 Knights took the first game against the Hawks fairly easily, setting up the possibility of a quick sweep of the 10th-ranked West Delaware team. But the second set proved a bit more difficult of a win for the Knights as the Hawks got their footing in the Union High School gym.

In the third, Union trailed for most of the set until finally punching back and taking the helm at 25-24 before ultimately falling to the Hawks in three successive serves.

The fourth set was another tense game, especially for Union fans after the Knights fell behind midway through. But thanks to a series of seven successful serves by Union sophomore Emily Anton, the Knights propelled into the lead and eventually took the win over West Delaware.

Against the Hawks – and like they’ve done all season – the formidable force that is Knoop & Klima led the offense for the Knights with Knoop racking up 56 assists (out of a team total of 60), three kills, and just two errors during the four sets, while Klima notched 28 kills (out of 62 total), two assists, and four errors.

Sophomore Reagan Glenn recorded another 11 kills, while senior Dena Robb had nine.

Union senior Jami Hilmer, center, accepts her team’s 2023 volleyball state qualifier banner from activities director Michael Bruns, left, last Tuesday evening in the high school gym following the Knights win over West Delaware for the Region 5 championship. Also pictured is Union defensive specialist, freshman Laikyn Ewoldt (3) as she leaps into the air in celebration. PHOTO BY KAYLA ROBB

On defense, Klima had 17 digs out of a team total of 79. Adding to the final count were libero Ava Mehlert, Knoop, and Glenn who each had 13 digs. Robb led the block count with seven out of a team total of 16.

At the service line, Union recorded five aces including three from Glenn, and one apiece from Klima and Anton.


This week, the No. 7 seed Knights (38-11) are scheduled to face the No. 2 seed, the Cherokee Washington Braves (29-6) on Halloween at 10:30 a.m. on Court 2 in the Class 3A quarterfinal played at XTREAM Arena in Coralville.

The winner of the match will face either No. 3 seed Western Christian or No. 6 seed Center Point-Urbana on Wednesday, Nov. 1 at 2:25 p.m.

Avery Knoop pictured executing one of her 56 assists against the West Delaware Hawks. PHOTO BY KAYLA ROBB

The 3A state final is set for Thursday, Nov. 2 at 2:30 p.m.

But no matter what happens – whether the Knights make it out of the first round or bow out Tuesday morning in a repeat of 2022 – battling their way to a return state berth is an accomplishment to be immensely proud of, especially in light of the prowess of the eastern Iowa volleyball landscape this season. In the final rankings, 11 out of the top 15 Class 3A teams hailed from the eastern half of the state.

As Robb, who plays middle hitter for the Knights, told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier last Tuesday following the regional final win, “We talked about at the beginning of the season getting back there, that was our No. 1 goal.”

Goal met!

The Telegraph will feature coverage of Union’s state tournament appearance in next week’s edition.

Bianca Grimm goes for the kill against the West Delaware defense last Tuesday night. PHOTO BY KAYLA ROBB

Dena Robb (21) and Avery Knoop block a West Delaware spike last Tuesday evening in La Porte City. PHOTO BY KAYLA ROBB

Union senior Gracie Klima lays down one of her 28 kills against West Delaware last week during the Class 3A Region 5 final. Klima is currently No. 1 in 3A for kills. PHOTO BY KAYLA ROBB

Knight Reagan Glenn pictured last week Tuesday as she sends a hard hit over the net to the Hawks' defense. PHOTO BY KAYLA ROBB

Sydney Schmeucker (12) goes for the block against West Delaware during last Tuesday's regional final played in the Union high school main gym. PHOTO BY KAYLA ROBB