NEWTON – The West High volleyball team handled West Des Moines Valley 3-1 in a Class 5A regional final Tuesday. The Women of Troy advance to the state tournament next week at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.
Aside from a hiccup in the second set, West (28-11) didn’t have any issues in the 25-8, 19-25, 25-12, 25-15 victory. And if the first set was any indication — and it was — the Women of Troy peaked at the right time. The Women of Troy led off the match with an 8-2 advantage, then 16-4, and then 21-6 en route to the first-set win. Mikaela Morgan pummeled the Valley defense with seven kills in the first set and finished with 19 for the match.
“It’s serving and passing,” West coach Randy Dolson said. “Tonight we passed really well and we were able to stay within our system and put the pressure on the other team. We have to get good serves, quality swings and play defense. There’s no doubt in my mind that the team that gets the most quality hits is going to come out on top.”
In the second set, West trailed 7-4 before calling a timeout. Valley went on to record the set win, but then West traded punches staking out a 8-2 lead in the third and then 22-11 before slamming the door shut on the Tigers (37-12) in that set and ultimately the fourth, too. The two clubs engaged in several long volleys in sets three and four with the Women of Troy the beneficiary of most of those.
Morgan and fellow seniors Laynie Whitehead and Madi Miller continued to be staples throughout Tuesday’s action. Morgan finished with 19 kills and 17 digs, Whitehead had 11 kills, and Miller had 28 digs. Additionally, Maddie Fay had 41 assists and 12 digs, Madi Ford 13 digs, Emma Norris seven kills, and Ali Tauchen six kills, six digs and three blocks.
Iowa City West’s Ali Tauchen (10) blocks a volley at the Class 5A-Region 5 regional finals held at Newton High School on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014.
“You just have to stay in it,” Whitehead said of winning volleys. “Stay in your base, stay low. It’s pretty easy to start thinking about it and wander, but we really stayed in it and won those points.”
Last season, West lost in the regional semifinals to Cedar Rapids Jefferson. Quite a turnaround in the last 12 months to go from an early exit in the postseason to a trip to state.
“We’re really coming together at this point,” Morgan said. “It’s really exciting. We’ve been working really hard to get here. We have the passion and we have the connection. We’re a big family.”
Dolson is in his first year at the helm for the Women of Troy after six seasons at Dubuque Hempstead.
West wasn’t in position to punch its ticket to the state tournament Sept. 13. Albeit early in the season, Dolson’s club was sitting at 8-6 at that stage. But West went on an eight-match win streak, traded a few wins and losses, and now are winners of four straight heading into the most important week of the fall.
Now, the goal is to end the season with a victory.
“The first part of the season to me is one big experiment,” Dolson said. “You throw six or seven girls out there and see if it works. We went through what works, what doesn’t.
“We went back to the chalkboard a few times, and we worked through all of that the first month of the season. It wasn’t only me learning the players’ strengths and weaknesses, but we had to find out why. What player would fit in what spot? And, well, we’re cooking right now.”
Reach Matt Cozzi at email@example.com or 887-5409.