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Redhawks advance to Regional final with sweep of Bravettes

October 31, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Traer Star-Clipper

Deja vu ensued as North Tama volleyball hosted Montezuma on Halloween night. Only two short years ago, the Bravettes came into Traer and took the first two sets convincingly. The Redhawks would come up with three straight sets to win the match and eventually advance to their first State berth in school history. Once again this season, the Redhawks and Bravettes clashed in the postseason with a spot at substate on the line.

"We addressed that game in practice and I told them this experience was all too familiar and they couldn't let up," Halstead said. "Montezuma's coach does a nice job of getting her team fired up and has a lot of positive energy."

The goal of the night was to come out to dominate the Bravettes and not let them go on any major rallies. The Redhawks wanted to play their game from start to finish. That's where senior leaders like Katie Kopriva came in and took charge of the team.

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Katie Kopriva finished her final volleyball home game with 20 kill, nine digs, and 12 of 13 serving as the Redhawks swept the Montezuma Bravettes.

"I brought them all together and told them 'it's all us now' and we need to match [Montezuma's] energy," Kopriva said. "We had to come out with that next point and match their intensity."

And that's exactly what North Tama was able to accomplish as they swept the Bravettes 25-16,25-16, 25-13 to earn at place in the Regional final for the first time since that memorable night two years ago.

"We turned it on pretty well and we ultimately got the momentum against a team with a chip on their shoulders," Halstead said.

After overcoming an early rough start to the match, the Redhawks needed a little more firepower in the second set to match up against Montezuma. Carlie Gorder rose up for several slides to cut through the Bravette's defense and give the Redhawks momentum to ride throughout the remainder of the night.

"Carlie struggled in practice recently, but she knew it and came out with fire tonight," Halstead said. "When she gets going with those slides and hits those weird angles, that's hard to stop. She'll need to continue to do this down the road. We had a good night from Alexis at middle as well and it's good to have that in our back pocket."

Gorder would finish the match with seven kills for the Redhawks. Yet it would be Kopriva with the big night overall for North Tama as she finished with 20 kills and three errors in her final home game as a Redhawk.

"Yesterday, I left practice feeling really confident," Halstead said. "Katie really stepped up in practice. Now that she's healthy, she's amped up like 'I'm going to do what needs to be done to get this ticket.' Because of injuries and conditioning, there's been times this season she couldn't do that. Now Katie is to the point she can do that again for us. She sees the writing on the wall."

Takoa Kopriva tallied 12 digs in the win while the team overall had 47 digs in the match. Amongst an "amazing" night for North Tama defensively according to Halstead, freshman Lainey Willenbring had nine digs to go along with three aces as she continues to start for the Redhawks this season.

"The faster the game is, the better Lainey is," Halstead said. "I say this sarcastically: Lainey doesn't do everything fundamentally correct, but she does everything right. If she's not in the right place at the right time, she'll dive trying. When she comes through with plays like she did today, we feed off that energy."

Halloween was a joyous night for the Redhawks, yet a major detail loomed over the six seniors on the team. This was their final home game, ever.

"It's bittersweet knowing this was the last time I'll play on this court," Kopriva said. "With that in mind, I went out and played my absolute hardest. It's a big sigh of relief to get past this hump we've been in. Playing our best tonight is a great feeling."

Along with the memories of their meeting with the Bravettes two years ago, this detail wasn't completely ignored by Halstead. However, winning this critical match was the focal point of the practices after their win over Collins-Maxwell on Monday.

"It came up a couple of times, but we focused on us," Halstead said. "I'm glad they have this memory of playing this well against a good team during their last time at home."

That ability to focus and stay mentally strong has been a storyline as early as their loss to Gladbrook-Reinbeck to end their 2018 season. The Redhawks were taught to focus on what's happening on their side of the net rather than their opponent's side.

"This season is similar to my sophomore year in the fact because we're not feeling the pressure as much," Kopriva said. "We're staying calm, collected and working on our things to fix, not the opponent."

North Tama will next head to Marshalltown High School on Tuesday, Nov. 5 as they face Grandview Christian for a ticket to the State Tournament. The Thunder upset ranked BCLUW in five sets to advance to the Regional final. Though Kopriva was unaware of who the Redhawks would face next, the message remained the same.

"We need to continue working on us and not stressing about the target on our backs," Kopriva said. "We need to do work on doing what we do best to get us to State."

Photos of North Tama's win over Montezuma are available to view and download on Flickr at



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