Iowa volleyball: Sheldon set to meet Mount Vernon at state tournament
SHELDON, Iowa — Sheldon’s volleyball teams have proven themselves strong enough to reach Cedar Rapids in November more than once over the last decade.
The Orabs have done it again this season. After defeating both Unity Christian and Garner-Hayfield/Ventura in Class 3A Region 1 play, Sheldon advanced to state. The first match for Sheldon (34-4) comes tonight at 6 p.m. against Mount Vernon (25-10) in the state quarterfinals.
The Mustangs enter the state tournament after taking second in the eastern division of the WAMAC. Mount Vernon rolled up three sweeps in Region 8 play, over West Liberty, Camanche, and Mediapolis. The Orabs, on the other hand, claimed second place in the Siouxland Conference behind MOC-Floyd Valley. Sheldon has four wins to its credit against teams who have qualified for state.
“We’ve been tested all season and know that we have played great teams,” Sheldon volleyball coach Eric Maassen said. “We’ve matched up with some really great opponents and are looking forward to playing more great opponents once we get down (to Cedar Rapids).”
Mount Vernon comes in as a young squad, with just one senior on the team. The Mustangs have reached the state tournament this fall for the sixth time in seven years. They are a three-time champion, having won back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010.
Maassen is in his second season at Sheldon. The program’s last trip to state was 2011, where they were defeated by Grundy Center in the opening round.
While they are young, the Mustangs tout five hitters with greater than 100 kills on the year. MV senior Hannah Whitley’s 255 kills paces the team, while junior Emma Coachrane has 183, freshman Wynne Vandersall has 169, sophomore Maddy Hawtrey has 129, and frshman Kaitlyn Volesky has 118. Mount Vernon junior Morgan Melchert sets it all up and has 804 set assists for the year, a mark that is fifth in Class 3A.
Freshman Libby Ryan has a team-best 34 aces; The group carries a serve efficiency of .911 for 172 aces into the tournament.
“Mount Vernon is a great team that has had a lot of success in the past. This year is no different,” Maassen said. “They’ve played some tough competition. You know that when you get to the state tournament you’re going to have a quality opponent.
“They have some solid hitters and their setter is really good,” Maassen said. “We’re going to have our work cut out for us but, our girls have seen a lot of good teams throughout the year. Our girls will be prepared for whatever they throw at us.”
Should the Orabs win, they know they will face an opponent from the stout Hawkeye 10 Conference for the semifinal round. The Hawkeye 10 features four teams at state over three different classes, including St. Albert in Class 2A, Red Oak and Kuemper Catholic in Class 3A and Harlan in Class 4A.
Red Oak and Kuemper face off on the opposite side of Sheldon’s bracket. The winners of those two matches will meet in a semifinal tilt Thursday afternoon.