West High Hopes Rugged Schedule Pays Dividends at State
West High senior Emily HalversonBy Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – When people look up West High in the program at this week’s state volleyball tournament head coach Randy Dolson has a pretty good idea the first thing most people are going to notice.
“In the program everyone’s record is there,” Dolson explained. “Everyone will see 14 losses.”
What almost no one will see when they look at the 23-14 record for West High is how the Women of Troy ended up with those 14 losses.
Eighth-ranked West High overcame a series of early injuries and sickness and a schedule that ranks among the most difficult in the state to return to the Class 5A state tournament for the third consecutive season.
One of only seven teams in all class to reach the state tournament with double digit defeats, West High opens state tournament play on Tuesday at Noon against second-ranked and two-time defending 5A champion Ankeny Centennial (32-3) at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.
“People don’t understand what happened to us this year,” Dolson said. “Number one we put the toughest schedule that we could together and then we ran into injuries and we were sick for half the season. We are just starting to get healthy the last four or five matches.”
Just about everyone in a green and gold uniform has dealt with some sort of injury or illness this season.
Those setbacks contributed to a 4-6 start to the season. Half of West High’s 14 losses came before Sept. 11.
“It’s a journey, everyone peaks at different times and goes through different things,” West High senior Ali Tauchen said. “It’s just a matter of playing your best at the right time and I think we are going to do that.”
The other factor in the 14-loss season for West High has been a loaded schedule that has featured 22 matches with teams ranked to end the season.
All but one of West High’s 14 loss came to ranked opponents with 11 of those setbacks coming to teams ranked in the top six.
Seven of those losses have been decided in the final set.
“We have played as tough if not a tougher schedule than a lot of teams at state,” Dolsons said. “We have played a lot teams and if you look at those teams we’ve have taken those teams to the limit.”
Thanks in large part to its schedule and the experience of state tournament appearances the past two seasons West High isn’t going to be intimidated at state regardless of its record.
West High played 10 matches during the regular season against teams in the 5A field, no other 5A qualifier played more than eight.
One of those matches came against first-round opponent Ankeny Centennial.
The Jaguars edged West High 21-11, 11-21, 16-14 at the Cedar Rapids Jefferson tournament last month.
“We have played them already and we were very close the first time we played them we just kind of had a lull in our energy level and that brought us down,” West High senior Emily Halverson said. “We’ve seen that all season and I think we are going to correct that.”
After facing top-five opponents each week for the last month even an opening round matchup with the two-time defending champion isn’t going to get to West High.
“Centennial beat us 16-14 in the final set after we split and that was a dog fight even match,” Dolson said. “We feel fine going into this match. I think they might be overlooking us a little bit and now we are a little bit healthy.”
The only three losses for Ankeny Centennial have come to 2A power Dike-New Hartford, No. 5 Ankeny and fourth-ranked Linn-Mar.
The Jaguars have won 13 of their last 14 matches with the lone loss during that stretch a 25-19, 25-23 setback to Linn-Mar at the same Cedar Rapids tournament where they defeated West High.
West High enters the state tournament fresh off a five-set win over recent postseason nemesis Bettendorf in the regional finals.
The Bulldogs defeated West High in the state quarterfinals each of the past two seasons on their way to runner-up finishes to Ankeny Centennial.
West High will get a chance to knock out both of last year’s finalists in back-to-back matches when it face Centennial on Tuesday. “It’s just the stigma of getting past Bettendorf after they knocked us out the past two years was big,” Halverson said. “That just gave us that little extra push of confidence.”