Stanton very nearly didn’t reach the Iowa state volleyball tournament.
In hindsight, the Viqueens couldn’t be happier with the close call.
The team cruised through most of its fall schedule. But against unrated Ar-We-Va in a Class 1-A regional final last week, No. 6 Stanton was pushed to the brink of elimination on several occasions before rallying for a five-set victory.
The outcome snapped the Viqueens’ 44-set winning streak dating back to September while barely counting toward their 17th straight triumph overall.
“I think it was a good eye-opening situation for us,” senior Rachel Sorensen said. “Not many times in my high school career have we gone into five games. It was good to see that it is not going to be easy.”
Indeed, Stanton’s seniors had only gone the distance in a match two other times in their four-year careers. Fighting for a state berth in a fifth set effectively shook away any lingering complacency.
As a reward, the reenergized Viqueens (34-2) continue their season Thursday at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. Stanton, the smallest school represented at the state tournament, plays the second smallest — No. 4 Janesville (31-8) — at 6 p.m.
Both schools are also making their third straight state appearance, and third in program history. Junior Carmen Subbert (3.52 kills per set) sets the offensive tone for Stanton, with Sorensen (2.68) also a threat. Janesville will counter with sophomore all-stater Kendyl Sorge (3.35) and junior Sylvia Amlie (2.13).
Stanton won a state match in 2010 before getting swept away in its first contest 12 months ago.
“I think this one means so much to the girls who were part of last year’s team,” Stanton coach Jody Druivenga said. “We wanted to do better there last year. It’s one of those unspoken things that the girls want to get there and do better this year. And I’m very confident that they can do that.”
With experienced rosters on both teams, talent will likely outshine nerves during this match. But with eight seniors compared to Janesville’s three, the Viqueens are hoping both talent and experience are factors in Cedar Rapids.
Other Stanton senior regulars include setters Rochelle Sink and Ragen Anderson as well as Kara Allen and Kimber Wagg.Most have played together since elementary school.
“We’re good friends and can all come together with the same goals,” Rachel Sorensen said. “We want to finish on a really good note and make sure that, win or lose, we’re playing our hardest no matter what.”
Druivenga said her players are well on their way to that accomplishment based on recent workouts. Ever since Stanton’s volleyball life flashed before its eyes against Ar-We-Va, practices and preparations have been even crisper than normal.
Now the Viqueens plan to use that sense of urgency for a few more matches.
“I think I saw a side to them that night that I hadn’t had the opportunity to see many times during the last several years,” Druivenga said. “It’s one of those things that was a reality check for us, and that’s never a bad thing.”