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Redhawks write history with sweep of Gehlen Catholic

November 14, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Traer Star-Clipper

A new chapter in North Tama athletics has been written as Redhawk volleyball achieved their first win in the State Volleyball Tournament over Gehlen Catholic 3-0 on Wednesday, Nov. 13 in the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.

"The girls came down this time with a whole different mindset," coach Channing Halstead said. "The disappointment of last year and being down here two years ago was a really good combination to teach us a lesson. We didn't want to be one and done. We have practiced hard this last week to make sure we played our way."

Known for their "slow" starts throughout the season, the Redhawks shocked the Jays with a blistering, balanced attack between Abby DeBoef, Carlie Gorder and Katie Kopriva. Overcoming the occasional defensive miscues, the Redhawks took the first set 25-20 in convincing fashion against the favored Jays.

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Carlie Gorder had 10 kills in the sweep over Gehlen Catholic on Wednesday, Nov. 13 at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.

"Our communication and confidence came out right away," Katie Kopriva said. "That was probably the main difference between us and Gehlen Catholic. We built off our team's confidence. Once our passing is on, Isabel doesn't have to move as much and can set really well. We played our game."

The five returning members from the Class of 2020 and several of the freshmen from 2017 were a part of the team that made North Tama's first-ever trip to State, yet the younger players had never been on a stage quite like the U.S. Cellular Center.

"We knew coming in that [Gehlen] would either try to serve Katie off the court or they would pick on our younger players like Aubree and Lainey," Halstead said. "The older girls have done a great job talking confidence into them. I started Katelyn [Kucera] because we needed her out there as a communicator and keep our heads on straight. We didn't want the younger girls to get shaky and they both played well."

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The Redhawks kept their foot on the pedal even as Gehlen collected themselves to mount a counter in the second set against a series of North Tama rallies. In the meantime, the North Tama defense shook off their nerves. It would take a defensive stand to pull of the 25-22 win as the Redhawks went up 2-0 as DeBoef began to get hot with her hitting.

"While their defense was literally standing in front of Katie waiting for her to get the ball, I wanted Abby to score," Halstead said. "Abby hasn't been healthy most of the season and finally is getting back her confidence. I saw her calling for the ball tonight. She played a bigger role than most people realize."

Yet it was the third set that would make the Redhawk faithful sweat it out. Not only were the Jay in tune with North Tama's plan of attack, but the Redhawks also committed a game-high 12 errors in the third set alone. Yet the Redhawks matched their 14 kills from the first set, including several scoring slides by Gorder to keep North Tama close when down.

"We started with great momentum at the beginning, which helped us at the end knowing we were up," Gorder said. "We just kept pushing because we knew we couldn't let down. Offensively, our hitters were all doing really well. If we had an error, we kept our heads up. Our defense was a bit shaky at first, but we got it by the end so our offense could finish this."

A sweep appeared inevitable as the Redhawks took a 21-18 lead before the Jays fired back with a mini run and lead 24-23. One final run by North Tama silenced the Gehlen crowd as the Redhawks indeed made it a sweep with a final score of 26-24.

"We calmed down and did us," Halstead said. "People here aren't just going to roll over for us. These are all good teams. We controlled our side of the net when we needed to and very relieved we didn't play a fourth set. It's cool to say you swept a seed that was higher than you."

With their victory on Wednesday, North Tama achieved their first program win in the State Volleyball Tournament. The Redhawks are currently 27-6 and ready to do more in the tournament. Katie Kopriva finished with 13 kills and nine digs, followed by DeBoef with 11 kills, Gorder 10 kills, Isabel Sierra with 30 assists and 13 assists, and Takoa Kopriva with 13 digs

"This win is huge and feels so good," Gorder said. "When he came here our sophomore year, we were just here to be here. Now that we're seniors, we actually want to get to the next round and make the championship. We need to keep pushing, don't worry about the other side and play together."

From the moment the team arrived in Cedar Rapids for only their second State berth in school history, the trip had a far different vibe than in 2017. Suddenly the program isn't a stranger to the success they've become accustomed to over the past three seasons.

"Two years ago getting here for the first time was a big deal because it was a big deal for the community, but now we want to be here to do some damage," Takoa Kopriva said. "We were all young, nervous, and excited. Now we want more done and be focused. The next goal is to go to the championship and win this thing."

Whatever the outcome may be going forward, the seniors' "second mom" in Halstead is proud of the accomplishments her first set of fifth graders have achieved in their final season as Redhawks.

"I didn't know what to say honestly," Halstead said. "I said everything more or less on the court. I really care about these girls and want nothing but success for them. They're excitement says enough. They do it for each other."

The Redhawks will face a tall order in 1A's number one team Sidney on Thursday, Nov. 14 at 6:00 p.m. The winner will advance to the championship game against the winner of Wapsie Valley/Holy Trinity. Photos from Wednesday's win are available at



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