OELWEIN – After graduating the majority of its starting lineup from last season, questions were aplenty for Waverly-Shell Rock entering the 2020 campaign.
Aside from Avery Beckett, who would step up and fill the voids left by those that departed?
Would a roster flush with young talent be up to the challenge?
W-SR has answered those questions and more this fall.
The Go-Hawks won the Northeast Iowa Conference tournament in convincing fashion Saturday in Oelwein – checking off another preseason goal.
No. 6-ranked W-SR swept the field en route to its 23rd NEIC tournament crown.
The Go-Hawks beat Waukon 21-6, 21-4, Oelwein 21-9, 21-7 and Crestwood 21-8, 21-16 on Thursday in New Hampton to open the tournament. W-SR then knocked off New Hampton 21-13, 21-15, Charles City 21-18, 21-14 and Decorah 21-15, 21-9 to put an exclamation point on a dominating run through the NEIC.
“I’m just really proud with how we’ve been able to play,” said Reagan Dahlquist, who is one of just two seniors on the Go-Hawks’ roster this season. “We’ve worked hard in practice, worked hard in games and we’ve been able to play just as well as we have in the past years.”
W-SR (37-8) won all 12 sets during the NEIC tournament.
Junior Brooke Willis led the team with five kills against Waukon, while classmate Annika Behrends was 14 of 14 serving with five ace serves. Beckett and fellow junior Sophie Sedgwick each posted three aces in the win.
Ashli Harn, a junior who has emerged as a complement and lethal secondary hitter to Beckett, added four kills and five aces against Oelwein. Beckett and Willis combined for 15 kills against the Huskies.
Beckett connected on 10 kills and scooped a team-best nine digs against Crestwood, while Sedgwick added 17 assists. Sophomore Ellie Thompson had a team-high three blocks.
Against New Hampton on Saturday, Beckett scored a team-best 13 kills and hit .429 in the match. Sedgwick finished with 22 assists, while Behrends scooped seven digs, and Dahlquist had two blocks.
“We focus on the teams that we play and come to practice every day and try to get better,” longtime W-SR coach EaVon Woodin said.
A pivotal moment that highlighted how much the Go-Hawks have matured from the beginning of the season came during the first set against Charles City on Saturday.
The Comets controlled the flow of the set and grabbed a 16-15 lead when Woodin called a timeout.
“I said you should have all the confidence in the world,” Woodin told her team. “You’ve beat these teams. We should be the ones stepping out on the court and having confidence, rather than the other team.
“And they pretty much turned it around.”
And turn it around W-SR did.
The Go-Hawks rallied to win the set before sweeping the match. Beckett led the way with 10 kills, while Harn added eight, along with an ace. Sophomore Paige Hendricks was 7 of 7 serving with an ace.
Sedgwick was a perfect 8 of 8 serving with two aces against Decorah, to go along with her 15 assists. Beckett added another 10 kills, while Thompson recorded three blocks.
The second set against the Vikings was one of the best the Go-Hawks have played all season. They opened with an 8-2 run and gave up just nine points throughout the set.
“Our energy was really high,” Dahlquist said. “We were working as a team really well.”
W-SR has a bye to begin Class 4A, Region 5 play and will hosts a semifinal match at 7 p.m. Thursday.
“We just have to practice with lots of energy,” Dahlquist said. “That way, when we bring it onto the court for a game, we can carry it out.”