West Delaware capped a terrific four-year run, defeating West Liberty in the Class 3A title game at the Alliant Energy PowerHouse, in Cedar Rapids, Nov. 4, to win the second state title in program history, the first since 2015.
After being eliminated in semifinal round state play in 2018 and 2019 followed by a state runner-up finish in 2020, the Hawks brought home the gold in 2021, defeating Unity Christian and Sergeant Bluff-Luton before topping West Liberty in the finals.
“We’re extremely happy with everything that happened this season. There was a lot of growth from the beginning to the end of the season,” said coach Brett Mather. “Obviously, winning a state championship was extremely exciting. To tie for a WaMaC regular-season championship was something the girls wanted.”
The Hawks are known for quick tempo, solid defensive play and toughness. This year’s state champions were a model of that.
“I think it was the team aspect and how important everybody knows they are to our team. For us to be successful, we have to be one unit and I thought our girls did a great job of that,” Mather explained. “They brought a great mindset to practice every day and we brought a great mindset to our competitions. Our mindset was a great difference-maker for us in the state tournament. We always seemed in control mentally, which is a big part.
“I knew we would be competitive down there and that’s all you can ask. I thought as long as we kept competing we’d put ourselves in a great position. Being able to do what we did was a result of us just battling for every point.”
Having a solid contingent of seniors was a terrific foundation for this year’s Hawks. Carlee Smith, Jaci Bries, Ella Koloc, Kayla Felton and Juliette Weber have certainly left a mark on the program.
“A lot of these girls have been part of the program for four years at the high school level as just a very valuable group of girls. The knowledge and the leadership — they did an incredible job of not just leading but helping our squad be successful. They were fabulous and they will be missed,” said Mather. “Playing your last match for a state championship — you can’t go out better than that.”
Smith dished out 1166 assists on the season and added 113 kills. Alivia Schulte led the team in kills with 438, freshman Brooke Krogmann had an outstanding rookie season with 209 kills, and the dynamic middle duo of Bries (242 kills) and Allie Demmer (189 kills) kept opposing blockers at bay. Felton chipped in with 153 kills and led the team with 58 ace serves.
Four-year starter Ella Koloc led the defense, and set a West Delaware record for career digs with 1837, an average of 4.15 per game. Freshman Olivia Halverson made an impact in the back row, and junior Hayley Vaske contributed 15 aces while serving 91%.
While the Hawks will graduate a strong cast, the cupboard won’t be bare next year. Look for Mather to put another strong team on the floor.
“We have a good nucleus back. We lose a lot of ball control, but it’s always the same thing. What girls are going to fill a position and fill it at a high level,” Mather said. “ It comes down to how much work and how much intensity the girls put into the offseason. It dictates where we start off next season.”