CEDAR RAPIDS | The Osage volleyball team rejoiced after a final block by senior Kelsey Havel and freshman Dani Johnson slammed the ball to the floor.
The Tipton Tigers hung their heads in defeat, and the Green Devils remembered something: that was them last year.
“I feel like last year we got closed 3-0, so it feels like we are them last year,” junior setter Rylie Olson said. “Tipton is us from last year, and it’s just a different feeling. We just did that, we can keep going. It’s possible.”
The Green Devils claimed their first match in the Class 3A state tournament — 25-18, 25-19, 25-18 — and everything looked the way it should.
In the first set, Osage hit the ground jumping with a 10-4 lead. The Tigers started to close in on the deficit at 11-9, but the Green Devils wouldn’t allow it.
Junior Kourtney Chambers slid from behind the left-front position to the right side, popping up a tip by the Tigers. Junior setter Rylie Olson was already in place. Instead of popping it up behind her to the right, she sent a shoot-set to the left, where junior Sydney Midlang appeared from nowhere, slamming down a line-kill.
“I’m pretty confident just throwing it up," Olson said. "Anyone can handle it.”
Trick plays like that and a hustle defense kept the Green Devils one step ahead throughout the match.
The Tigers piled on the blocks in the second set, forcing the Green Devils to take multiple swings for points. But the Green Devils kept their composure, rallying back and forth to a 12-12 tie to pull ahead to a 17-14 lead. Olson took her shots, knocking down three kills to throw off the Tigers and the set would end on a forced error.
“I think overall we’re a very non-emotional team; we can handle ourselves and take care of our own,” Olson said. “We do a good job of coming together and getting each other to relax.”
That was evident on the court as Tipton called two timeouts in each set. Osage, even when down in the second and third, never called one.
“I’ve been a big preacher and believer that 'I can’t be on the floor with you. I can give you all the skills, I can give you everything, but when push comes to shove, you have to take care of this on the court,'” coach Andie Olson said. “During the regional tournament, I was like, ‘It’s my goal to not call a timeout’ from the beginning of regionals to the state tournament."
Tipton grabbed an early lead 4-1 in the third set after switching offenses. But Osage stayed the course and steadily climbed to its first lead at 14-13. The Tigers forced more rallies, but Midlang started to wear down the defense with her swing.
Havel and Midlang led the offense with 12 and 10 kills respectively, Johnson finished with eight, and senior Brenna Jacobs finished with 7. Chambers finished the match with 10 digs, and Olson had 35 assists.
Osage advances to face top-ranked Sioux Center on Thursday in the semifinals
As the players filed into the media room, Olson pulled sophomore setter Sommer Daniel from Tipton aside, offering words of advice from experience.
“We’ve known all these kids forever; it’s kind of like family,” Coach Olson said. “I was like, ‘That was us. Take this, grow, do your thing.’”