COUNCIL BLUFFS — It doesn’t take a keen sense of hearing to know when Council Bluffs St. Albert is playing its best volleyball.
Take outside hitter Grace Wettengel, for example. On some serve-receive plays, the sophomore stands behind setter teammate Matti Munger before jumping out and screaming while sprinting to the net. It’s the sort of thing opponents notice.
“I don’t even know if I’m getting a set, but it works all the time,” Wettengel said with a laugh. “The middle bites so easily. Being loud in general just leaves them deer-in-the-headlights shocked.”
But ear-rattling shrieks are only part of how the Saintes like to “play loud.”
Hitters swing for kills — not just to keep the ball in play. Girls communicate during rallies and vocalize support to each other in between.
Class 2-A No. 4 St. Albert (27-4) intends to make more noise at the Iowa state tournament in Cedar Rapids.
The Saintes will make their third straight appearance by opening against No. 6 Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont (34-5) in a state quarterfinal Wednesday at noon at the newly renovated U.S. Cellular Center.
“We’re ready to go back to state, we know what it feels like and we want to get that first game,” senior Kylie Ferguson said. “We’re just going to work hard and do everything we can to play our ball up there.”
The 5-foot-10 outside hitter ranks fourth among 2-A individual state participants with 4.71 kills per set and is her squad’s source of go-to offense. But the senior is supported by perhaps the deepest of St. Albert’s three recent state lineups.
Also averaging more than a kill per set is junior Alli Wettengel (1.88), senior Josie Thomas (1.55), Grace Wettengel (1.46) and junior Emily Rindone (1.15). Munger hasn’t missed any court time at setter, and fellow juniors in libero Kendall Biggs and Chloe Meyer also provide valuable back-row defense. Reserve junior Katie McDonald and sophomore Kaitlyn Pearce have also filled in.
“Each person has a completely different role than the next person, but no person’s role is any less important than the next,” said St. Albert coach Angie Lantz, in her 10th season. “It’s all those different roles that make this team what it is.
“They really do put others before themselves. They’ve been there more for teammates than some past teams that I’ve had. As far as volleyball being a team sport, that’s a huge thing.”
The Saintes proved their mettle by finishing fourth in their debut in the 11-school Hawkeye Ten Conference that produced three other state qualifiers — Harlan, Carroll Kuemper and Red Oak.
“I don’t want it to end,” Thomas said. “Being at state is awesome, but I don’t want to stop there. I want to keep going. We do go through roller coasters sometimes, but I know that when we play our best, we can do amazing things.”
Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont counters with a pair of six-footers in Taylor Leffler and Karlie Taylor. The latter leads the Rockets with 5.00 kills per set, while 5-8 senior Rasha Alexander comes in averaging 3.62. E-B-F heads the 2-A field of teams with 2.94 aces per set.
“We want to go out and play our game and show up,” Biggs said. “We want to play our best game yet.”