Van Meter volleyball surges in regional semifinal win over Nodaway Valley

Andrew Brown
Dallas County News

The 11th-ranked Van Meter volleyball team captured a 3-0 win over Nodaway Valley (23-6) during Monday's Class 2A Region Three semifinal match.

 The Bulldogs walked away winners 25-11, 25-19 and 25-16 and evened up the all-time series between the Bulldogs and the Wolverines dating back to 2009. The series is now all knotted up at 2-2 but it's the first time in history that the Bulldogs have swept the Wolverines on the volleyball hardwood. It also marked the end of a postseason skid where Van Meter hadn't made a regional title game in over 10 years. 

"It definitely feels great," began head coach Sara Cook. "One of the goals for the girls at the beginning of the season was trying to make it to state. They have put in the work and now we're one step closer and it feels absolutely great." 

Sydney Rainey of Van Meter with a strike on Monday, Oct. 26 in the regional semifinal against Nodaway Valley.

Those thoughts were echoed by all the players on the roster including sophomore Abby Matt and senior Sydney Rainey. 

"We've never been this close," laughed both Matt and Rainey after the match. "It just feels so good and such a happy feeling. It feels as though if we keep playing our hardest we'll keep on going." 

Both Matt and Rainey were the top two leaders in kills for both the Bulldogs and across both teams in the match. Matt paced everyone on the court with 18 kills while Rainey was close behind with a season-high 11 kills for the contest. They combined for 29 of the teams' 47 total kills on the night. 

Van Meter's Emma Braun with a serve on Monday, Oct. 26 in the regional semifinal against Nodaway Valley.

Coming into the contest, the Bulldogs were on quite the winning streak, winners of 11 in a row and 16 out of the last 17 matches.  Monday's victory gives the Bulldogs 21 consecutive set wins without a single loss. 

Van Meter's game plan kept all of their streaks alive and it was performed to perfection as the visiting Wolverines never finished within six points of the Bulldogs.  

"Our game plan heading in was to get them out of system, so serving them high so they were standing up so their setter was often behind their ten-foot line," Cook said. "Then making sure on our side that our passes were in front of the 10-foot line so we could run that faster tempo and they showed up and they did it tonight." 

Van Meter head volleyball coach Sara Cook speaks with her team during a timeout on Monday, Oct. 26 in the regional semifinal against Nodaway Valley

The first set really showcased that on the night as a fast start only seemed to end faster for the Bulldogs. With the help of 15 kills in that initial set, the Bulldogs cruised to their largest margin of victory on the night in a 25-11 set one victory. The second set may have started with a 1-2 deficit for the Bulldogs, but from that point on, they never looked back. Jumping out to a 3-2 lead, which ballooned into a 10-5 advantage had things going early. The visiting Wolverines fought back however and took what was a comfortable 17-9 Bulldog lead and dwarfing it to an 18-14 mark. From there, however, a 7-5 Van Meter run sealed the deal for the set two win. 

Perhaps the strongest set of the night for the Bulldogs was the third and ultimately final set of the contest. An early 5-6 deficit was no match for Van Meter who then turned that into a 15-9 advantage seemingly in the blink of an eye. The third set is where the offense was perhaps at its best with 19 kills to lead all sets for the night.  

"Consistency and staying at our pace is really where we get to the strong point," Matt said. "Working together, it really has to be trust and our consistency, our game on the court."  

Van Meter's Norah Matt keeps the ball in play on Monday, Oct. 26 in the regional semifinal against Nodaway Valley.

The Bulldogs totaled 44 assists on the night with 26 of them coming from senior Emma Braun. The remaining 18 assists came from Sidney Nelson. With two of the teams' three blocks, Nelson also paced the Bulldogs in blocks for the night. Within the digs category, it was the duo of Zoie Vaught and Norah Matt who tied with 18 and combined for 36 of Van Meter's 67 digs for the night.  

Next up for the Bulldogs is their last obstacle before a possible state tournament berth. The contest will be against ninth-ranked Underwood and the location has been moved from its original site of Atlantic High School to West Central Valley High School in Stuart.

It will arguably be Van Meter's toughest battle to date taking on an Underwood team resting with a record of 26-5 and the fifth-most blocks in the class (105). The battle for a trip to the state tournament for Van Meter will begin at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 28.