CEDAR RAPIDS — A dream season for Van Buren County High School came to an end on Wednesday afternoon at the hands of Beckman Catholic in the quarterfinal round of the Class 2A state tournament. The Trailblazers swept the Warriors out of the U.S. Cellular Center, 25-18, 25-11, 15-14.
The Trailblazer got out to a hot start, scoring the first three points of the opening set and five out of the first six, but once the cobwebs were out, the Warriors began to give them a fight.
Van Buren fed senior middle hitter Taryn Scheuermann early in often in the first set. Scheuermann started to find her groove, leading the team back to tie the game at 6-6. The first set was also tied 8-8, 9-9 and 11-11. Van Buren scrapped back to take a two-point lead, taking an 13-11 advantage through the first 24 points.
“We had a good run there and got those points back,” said Warrior head coach Matt Zeitler. “They were really covering Selena (Sayre), so we went to Taryn, and Taryn did a good job.”
Van Buren led by two on three different occasions. The Warriors had the advantage at 14-12 and then again at 15-13.
“We had a lot of tips and touches in that game,” said Sayre. “Taryn and Grace (Davidson) had a lot of key hits that that point, which were needed. And our libero, Isabel Manning, is phenomenal at getting balls up that you wouldn’t expect a lot of people to get to.”
Unfortunately for the Warriors, Beckman had a big run in them, which they unleashed midway through the opening set. The Trailblazers went on a 5-0 run to turn a 15-13 deficit into an 18-15 lead, utilizing Dubuque Hempstead transfer Jada Wills to steal back the lead. Van Buren didn’t lead again for the rest of the afternoon.
“We were covering Willis, and all of the sudden he moves her,” Zeitler said. “And then we’re in a different type of deal that we’re not used to.”
Sayre stopped the Beckman run with a kill of her own to cut the lead to 18-16, but the Trailblazers ended the first set on a 12-3 run, spearheaded by a five-kill set by Wills.
“(We’re) definitely at our peak at the right time, toward the end of the year,” said Wills. “We all just really want to win for each other.”
Scheuermann had a four-kill performance in the first set to lead Van Buren. Grace and Chloe Davidson each had two, as did Sayre. Madison Bartholomew sprinkled in three service aces.
Much like in the first set, Beckman came out strong in the second. The Trailblazers scored the first four points of the set and jumped out to yet another 5-1 lead. This time, Van Buren didn’t have a comeback in them.
“If you go down by four or five points, you’ve got to figure out how to get your heads back up,” Zeitler said. “I think every team is like that up here. I think we are too, we just didn’t have the runs like they did.”
Despite a three-kill second set from Grace, the Warriors didn’t come any closer than three points down after Beckman’s opening rush. The Trailbazers held the Warriors quiet all second set, and added five more kills from Wills, which helped them dominate the game and take a 2-0 lead.
When the third set came around, it was the same old story at the start. Once again, Beckman started the set out with a 4-0 lead, and for the third straight set, they led 501.
Beckman led by nine points, at 14-3, early on, forcing a Van Buren timeout. The Warriors did claw back to within five points, at 19-14, utilizing aces from Logan Schmidt and Sayre in the process, but they could never get back up.
“Their hitters are very good,” said Sayre. “Setters are pretty good. Blocking was great, and their back row was pretty strong. Honestly, they’re a well-rounded team.”
Scheuermann got her groove back in the third set, tallying four more kills. That gave her a team-leading nine kills total in her final high school volleyball game.
“I love this team and everybody on it,” Scheuermann said. “I wouldn’t change it for the world. Van Buren is my home.”
Sayre and Grace each had six kills at the end of the action. Chloe finished with two. Manning, Ella Jirak, Chelsey Huff and Lexi Jirak each had one.
Schmidt and Bartholomew coled the squad with 11 kills each. Bartholowmew led the way with six digs, and both Sayre and Grace had five. Schmidt and Manning each had three digs, and Chloe finished with two.
The Warriors had seven service aces compared to just three service errors. Bartholomew’s three aces led the way. Schmidt had two. Sayre and Manning each ended the game with one. Chloe had the team’s only block.
Beckman was led by 11 kills from Wills. Kiersten Schmitt had 10 kills and both Paige McDermott and Chloe Ungs had seven. They’ll play sixth-seeded Clarion-Goldfield-Dows in the semifinals after C-G-D pulled off a three-set upset against Wilton.
For seven Van Buren seniors, it’s the end of a long run that was finished off the at the exact spot they wanted, the Class 2A state tournament.
“It’s a big deal for us,” said Grace, one of the two Davison twins finishing out their senior campaign. “This is something no one from our school has ever done, so that’s really cool for us too.”
For Coach Zeitler, it’s the end of an eight-year run as Van Buren volleyball coach. The Warriors finished out his last season with a 32-5 record.
“I told them ‘Hold your heads up. We’ve done a lot,” Zeitler said. “This volleyball team has done tons for the community and for Southeast Iowa. It’s great to get here. That’s what they wanted to do, and they did.”