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Green Devils still believe they are among best of 2A bunch
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Green Devils still believe they are among best of 2A bunch

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Scout all of Class 2A and it doesn't take too long to understand the depth and talent it features.

Dike-New Hartford is the consensus No. 1 team in the state by VarsityBound's power index and the top-ranked team in 2A. It has played eight matches against schools from 5A and gone 8-0.

Behind them are two teams with a combined record of 30-1 in Denver and Wilton. South Hardin is still undefeated; Boyden-Hull and Missouri Valley have each lost two matches.

Beckman Catholic and Sumner-Fredericksburg already have double digit wins. Of Western Christian's five losses, two of them are against teams in the state of Iowa.

So after its home tournament, in which the Green Devils suffered their first two losses of the season, how does 2A No. 8 Osage view itself three weeks into the 2021 season?

"I feel like we should be at the top," libero Jaden Francis said.

Saturday was the first chance this version of the Green Devils got an opportunity to see where they stack up against top-level competition.

Class 4A No. 8 Waverly-Shell Rock gave them their first setback of the season in three sets in the final match of pool play. About two hours later, the Wolverines made it back-to-back losses with a sweep in the championship bracket semifinals.

"We learned we're right there with some of the best teams in the state," Osage head coach Bryan Tabbert said. "Definitely proud of how the girls played."

The final scores only tell a piece of the story.

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When Osage ran its way through Class 3A last fall en route to the state title, it would be a rare occurrence to see it drop back-to-back sets, let alone matches.

Still, for the returners, Saturday was just what they needed.

"They exposed that we need to hustle after every single play," Francis said. "We haven't seen, since the beginning of the season, hard serves like Waverly and Dike had."

There were good moments against the Go-Hawks and Wolverines. When WSR cruised in the first set, the Green Devils responded empathically with a dominating second set in which the offense was clicking.

"We got a little shell-shocked," Tabbert said. "That second set, the girls knew we could compete with them and we did. It is important to have tough matches like that. Girls needed a challenge."

Dike raced out to a nine-point lead in the opening set and seemed to be in total control. Osage didn't wilt under the pressure.

The Green Devils went on a 6-1 run to trim the deficit to four. The two teams exchanged points for the remainder of the set, which resulted in Osage not getting closer than two points.

"It was really important," senior Meredith Street said. "If you don't, it is hard to get going. If we could try to get our momentum the right way, we could start off strong in the second set."

When the new IGHSAU rankings come out on Thursday, Osage could drop. It could hold at No. 8. And there's still a month until the postseason starts.

A lot can happen between now and then. The Green Devils could see the Wolverines again this weekend in Dike. They'll go to Cedar Falls, Waverly and Mason City for tournaments.

Osage is hopeful this weekend, per usual, is that necessary stepping stone toward a return trip to Cedar Rapids.

"This tournament showed us what we need to work on in the future for upcoming tournaments," Francis said. "It is really good to see what we need to work on."

Zach Martin is a sports reporter for the Globe Gazette. Reach him via email at zachary.martin@globegazette.com and follow him on Twitter @zach_martin95.

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