The postseason is a time when the best teams in the state finally have to match wits with top competition.
Teams that have dominated the opposition all season can be made to look silly once they face a squad with a better outside hitter, or a complete defense.
For the Osage Green Devils, this week will be yet another big test in what has been a spectacular season. Following last week’s regional championship victory over Emmetsburg, the Green Devils advanced to the state tournament, the lone area team to accomplish that feat this season.
Osage (36-6) will open the postseason as the No. 4 seed, and will take on No. 5 Grundy Center (32-8) in the opening round game. Grundy Center comes into match with a three-match winning streak, the most recent one a five-set victory over Underwood in the Class 2A, Region 4 championship game.
Junior Abby Hamman leads the Spartans with 312 kills on the season, while senior Emma Kracht leads with an impressive 51 aces.
The Green Devils have relied on their powerful hitters and spectacular setting to get them deep into the postseason.
Junior setter Ellie Bobinet leads the state with a program record 1,122 sets on the season. Junior Danielle Johnson has a team-high 439 kills, good for 24th in the state.
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The players credit first-year head coach Bryan Tabbert’s new team culture as a big reason for the team’s success. Tabbert spent two seasons as an assistant coach under Andie Olson, and coached much of the team at the JV level. With his positive coaching style and familiarity with the players, the team has thrived.
“It feels different,” Johnson said earlier this season. “He has brought such a positive attitude towards things. Our culture has been amazing. We’re all so happy to be here, and we’re all happy to play for coach Tabbert. It makes it so much fun out on the court.
"We all have loved him the last couple years, so were excited he was going to be in the head coach position.”
Tabbert is a fairly calm presence on the sideline during matches, but in big moments, like when Osage clinched a spot in the regional championship with a win over Lake Mills, he lets loose with a holler or two.
Though his coaching style has earned the admiration of his players, Tabbert places the credit for this season solely at the feet of the girls.
“They’ve responded well with their play,” Tabbert said midway through the year. “They’re very aggressive any time during the game, and they have fun out there, which is the important thing.”
Osage will play Grundy Center on Wednesday at 4 p.m. at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids. The winner will play again at 4 p.m. Thursday for a spot in Friday's state finals.