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Redhawks finish runner-up in Iowa Star Conference Tournament

October 22, 2018
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Traer Star-Clipper

The North Tama volleyball team wrapped up the regular season with the Iowa Star Conference Volleyball Tournament at Meskwaki Settlement School on Saturday, Oct. 13, taking down Tripoli and falling to champion Janesville in the Gold Bracket.

This was the first year of the conference volleyball tournament and a chance for North Tama to have a crack at rivals Tripoli and Janesville again. The Redhawks got their chance against Tripoli after the Panthers defeated Colfax Mingo. Out of the gate, Tripoli controlled the game and took a 9-5 lead as coach Channing Halstead took a timeout to refocus the squad. From there, the Redhawks rallied back behind strong serving and better defense to force a tie. Several Panther errors, a timely ace by Madison Stoneking and a nail in the coffin by Carlie Gorder gave North Tama the set 21-18.

"We knew last time we played Tripoli that definitely wasn't our best and we weren't ready to go," Halstead said. "We got here early in the morning to watch them play to have an advantage. Our serve game was on point and we executed better. I thought we did a better job of identifying Zoe Semelroth, who is one of the best players in the gym. They tried to keep the ball away from Takoa, so we made sure our left and right backs were picking stuff up and we certainly did."

Article Photos

Karly Jans angles a shot over the net against the Tripoli Panthers in their first game of the Iowa Star Conference Tournament on Saturday, Oct. 13 at Meskwaki. The senior finished the tournament with six kills, nine digs and went nine of nine serving.

Yet again, Tripoli took a 9-5 lead to force another Redhawk timeout and responded to wrestle the lead way 14-12 after the Panthers committed more errors and mistakes to give North Tama easy points. Meanwhile, the Redhawks serving prevented few costly points to Tripoli. The Redhawks weathered a late rally to take the second set and the game 21-19. Katie Kopriva lead the way with nine kills, two digs and five blocks against the Panthers. Abby DeBoef and Karly Jans each had four kills for the Redhawks and Isabel Sierra putting up 12 assists along with eight of nine serving. Takoa Kopriva continued her outstanding junior season as libero with six digs despite the Panther attempting to attack away from her and also went four of four serving. Katelyn Kucera proved lethal from the serving line, going 11 of 11 serving and had two aces. As a team, the Redhawks went 39 of 41 serving

"We controlled our side and did what we were supposed to do," Halstead said. "We had to get runs while Semelroth was back row, and then she'd come front and make it closer. Keeping Tripoli out of system kept the ball out of her hands. Katie had some big blocks that were big for us. I'm glad we were ready this morning for them."

The momentous win over Tripoli wasn't celebrated for long as the Redhawks next took on top ranked Janesville. North Tama had faced off against the Wildcats at home earlier in the season, falling three sets and hungry for a rematch. Trading blow after blow, the two ranked conference opponents were in a close match throughout with neither surrendering a significant lead until errors began to mount for the Redhawks and the Wildcats pulled away 21-17 to take the first set.

"The only reason they came back in that first set when we were up was our unforced errors, which makes it even more frustrating," Halstead said. "We weren't handling our easy stuff and committing hitting errors and had a couple of missed serves at timely moments."

Momentum appeared to be squarely in Janesville's side of the court, taking a swiftly 5-0 lead. Not to be undone in their final regular season game, the Redhawks looked to Kopriva for scoring as they rallied back for a 10-10 tie. Janesville never gave up their lead, taking the final set 21-17 despite a strong comeback by North Tama.

"We like to do that sometimes," Halstead said. "I was worried about that set, but we got that rally during Janesville's weaker rotation and made the most of it to get back in. They beat us by tipping us. When you force the number one team to tip you to death, you're doing something right. We do need to control that when teams do that."

Katie Kopriva again led in kills with eight against Janesville, with errors plaguing other hitters. Takoa Kopriva posted seven digs and went eight of eight serving. Sierra had eight assists for the Redhawks as well as seven digs.

"Tripoli has beaten us many times, so that was a great way to start the day," Halstead said. "There is nothing to hang our heads on with playing the number one team closely in two sets. Today could only benefit us and not hurt us. Hopefully, we can play against Janesville again and make it a different game next time."

Despite the frustrating loss, Halstead also believes there was nothing to be ashamed of out of this tournament and hoped to make final adjustments before hosting Regional play starting on Monday, Oct. 22 as they host the winner between Meskwaki or Baxter. In the meantime, the Redhawks will regroup and work on tip coverage and hope to ensure serving is more in line with the first game than the second.



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