The defending champions are back, but everyone else appears to be just as dangerous.
There is no doubt that Kuemper Catholic comes in as one of the favorites of the class 3A tournament. After all, they ended the regular season beating two class 4A teams, Sergeant Bluff-Luton and Glenwood, both made the State tournament in a class higher.
With the win over Sergeant Bluff-Luton, especially has come confidence for the Knights.
“The biggest thing that we learned from Sergeant Bluff-Luton was confidence,” Keith Stickrod, the Kuemper Catholic head volleyball coach said. “We were also able to see what happens when we play where our responsibilities are.”
While the Kuemper Knights are riding a wave of confidence from a big win, they also enter the tournament with confidence from last year’s State championship run.
“Its all about confidence,” Stickrod said about what helps getting to the top of the tournament. “Having that confidence from last year is really the biggest thing. We all know that all teams that are playing there are good and have talent. It’s the team that can go through the ups and downs of a tournament that can come out on top.”
In order to add a second-straight State champion trophy to an already stuffed trophy case at Kuemper Catholic the Knights will have to survive what Stickrod believes is a pretty even field.
“Anybody can win,” Stickrod said. “It will be an interesting week. We just need to make sure we are prepared mentally before we go there. We just need to go into the gym on Wednesday morning and do what we need to do. If we go and play like we did against Humboldt then I think we will be moving on.”
Kuemper Catholic has a lot of experience with the rest of the class 3A field, even if they haven’t played them directly this year.
“During the summer we saw a lot of these teams, and I think, this year, more than any other year the tournament is pretty wide open,” Stickrod said. “Any team that comes prepared and ready to play is going to go the farthest.
“The only surprise that you may have is Dike-New Hartford not making the tournament. That was a big surprise. Everyone belongs in the tournament. It is anyone’s game in the tournament. You just have to come and be prepared to play. If you’re not prepared then you’re not going to go that far. I think it is so wide open this year without a dominant team.”
Davenport Assumption had the No. 1 seed, but when it comes to the major stat categories the Assumption Knights are middle to the pack in terms of kills, assists and digs.
Union, the No. 8 seed was the surprise of the regional tournaments when they knocked out Dike-New Hartford in the regional final. Dike-New Hartford is a team that has won eight State championships and made 20 appearances in the State tournament, dating back to 1992.
Most of the State teams have plenty of experience in the tournament as well. Davenport Assumption has five. Union has seven appearances. Mount Vernon has been to the State tournament 14 times including last year. After a four year absence West Liberty is in their ninth tournament. Unity Christian is making their 21st appearance in the State tournament. Red Oak has been in the State tournament 15 times and Nevada is making their sixth tournament and fifth since 2013.
The class 3A State tournament starts Wednesday at 10 a.m.