TABOR – The Sidney Cowgirls will play in the state volleyball tournament for a fifth consecutive season after a regional final sweep (25-20, 25-14, 25-20) of East Mills, Tuesday, Nov. 5.
This also marks the fourth year that Sidney’s senior quartet of Presley Brumbaugh, Maddy Duncan, Kelsey Hobbie and Olivia Larsen has been part of a state tournament team. Only Larsen and Hobbie played in the first round loss as freshmen, but Brumbaugh and Duncan were part of the varsity program.
“It feels great,” Larsen said on advancing back to the state tournament, “but this one is extra special.”
“It feels amazing in every way each year,” added Brumbaugh, “but this year I think we’re going to go all the way, we’re at least going to try.”
The Cowgirls needed a fifth win of the season over East Mills to make that fifth straight tournament appearance and head coach Amy McClintock said her team played really well.
“We had the experience of the last four years going into games like this,” said McClintock, “and they are mentally tough in these situations. They were a little nervous at first, but once we settled in and inched our way back things started turning our way.”
The 10th-ranked Wolverines got out quickly against the top-ranked Cowgirls, scoring the first four points of the match. Sidney came back to even the set at five, but the Wolverines responded with five of the next six to again lead by four. Sidney evened the set at 12, but again East Mills grabbed the lead back, scoring the next three.
Sidney answered with the next five, including a kill from libero from Lily Johnson, and didn’t trail again in the set. East Mills would tie the set at 17, but Sidney ended on a 6-1 run to win 25-20.
“We just had to pick up our pace on defense,” said McClintock, “which was the highlight of the night. I’m excited for them and proud of them. They worked hard to get there, whenever you can end the season in Cedar Rapids, that’s always a good thing.”
The second set was the easiest of the three for the Cowgirls. A 5-0 run gave Sidney a 7-3 edge, and they continued to extend the lead from there. Back to back kills by Paige Smith, who finished with a team-high 11, gave Sidney a 19-8 lead, an advantage that would be matched again by the final margin of 25-14.
East Mills stayed in striking distance most of the third set, but every time they would make a small run, the Cowgirls answered. Sidney led 15-8, but saw East Mills score the next four. The Wolverines would draw within 18-16, but Sidney scored the next three and secured the win on their third match point.
“It feels great,” Hobbie said on advancing back to the state tournament. “I think we’ll do really well this year compared to other years.”
“We played as a team and came together as a team,” added Duncan. “The feeling is indescribable.”
Video interviews with all four seniors can be seen on the Valley News Sports Facebook page.
McClintock said being able to pull out the first set win after trailing was huge.
“Against (East Mills) if you can get that first set you have a little momentum,” said McClintock. “We came out the second set and the big difference was we were getting every ball up and frustrating them. We got a few blocks on Alex (Knop), who is a heck of a ball player and took them out of transition.”
The defense was the highlight for the Cowgirls with Duncan leading the charge with 16 digs. Brumbaugh added 13 while Larsen had 12.
“Presley had some awesome saves in the back row,” said McClintock, “and Maddy is so quick back there.”
Smith added nine digs while Johnson had eight and Hobbie seven.
Smith’s 11 kills led the Sidney offense. Smith, Johnson and Harley Spurlock have joined the four seniors in the rotation this year, and McClintock said those three have stepped up all season.
“Lily passed the ball well (Tuesday),” said McClintock. “She was a little nervous to start, but she settled in. Paige played really well on the outside.”
Brumbaugh, Duncan and Hobbie added nine kills each for the Cowgirls while Spurlock finished with four without an error on eight swings. Larsen ended with an incredible 38 assists.
McClintock said it was a great team win.
“I told the girls to play together and let the mistakes go,” said McClintock. “Don’t get down, just keep fighting and use that for motivation. I sent the girls little videos all day from some of the kids in the elementary and some former players. It was a big night and I’m just super proud of how they played.”
East Mills hit .034 for the match with Knop being held to eight kills on 49 swings. Dezirae Drake led the Wolverines with 23 assists and 13 digs as East Mills’ season ended at 25-8 with five of the losses coming to Sidney.
The Cowgirls improved their season record to 35-6 and are the top seed in the Class 1A state tournament, which starts Wednesday, Nov. 13. Sidney will play unranked Springville in the first round. The Orioles are 20-16, but have won nine of 10 and beat ninth-ranked Lisbon in the regional final. All eight of Springville’s athletes that played in the regional final are freshmen or sophomores.
If Sidney beats Springville, the Cowgirls would play in a semifinal the following day at 6 p.m. against either LeMars Gehlen Catholic or North Tama. The final is Friday, Nov. 15 with St. Albert, Janesville, Wapsie Valley and Holy Trinity Catholic on the other half of the bracket.
The Cowgirls have been ranked number one by the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union nearly the entire season, but McClintock said finishing number one isn’t the goal they will be taking with them on their final road trip of the season.
“Anybody who ends (at Cedar Rapids) wants to do as much as they can while they’re there,” said McClintock. “We haven’t really been set on being ranked first all year, we just take it a game as a time. We have to take it a point at a time, a set at a time up there. We’re not planning to play Friday night, we’re planning to play our first game Wednesday and go one day at a time.”
“This is our first time being ranked number one and that’s pretty exciting,” added Larsen. “We’re just going to take it one game as a time and never take anything for granted.”
Sidney’s first round match with Springville is scheduled for 6 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 13 on Court One at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.