WILTON, Iowa − A Wilton volleyball season that will one day be remembered for a seemingly never-ending list of milestones − coach Brenda Grunder’s 500th win, Kali Milder’s 1,000th dig, Aubrey Putman’s 1,000th kill and Kallie Poor’s 2,000th assist − got another one to add Thursday night.
With a three-set sweep over Mediapolis in a Class 2A Region 8 volleyball semifinal match, the Beavers recorded their school-record 34th win and set up a date with Iowa City Regina (26-8) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at West Liberty with a chance to advance to state on the line.
“It’s hard to put into words what this season has been like because I just really enjoy this group of girls,” Grunder said. “They come in with energy, they come in with enthusiasm, they come in happy to be in the gym together as a group, and that has just helped us, I believe, be the team that we are.
“They just enjoy being around each other, we call it our volleyball family, and I have truly enjoyed this season.”
That identity was on full display Thursday as the Beavers cruised to a 25-15, 25-17, 25-12 victory, only trailing once all night when they fell behind 4-3 in the second set.
Using what they were given offensively, the Beavers didn’t force the over-powering kills that have become so ordinary during Wilton volleyball matches. Instead, they looked for holes on the opponent’s court, often tipping the ball over the out-stretched arms of their defenders, rather than trying to power it past them.
“I think we played a smart match,” Grunder said. “I think we took control offensively, we played the shots that we were given. We didn’t try to overreach offensively.
"… I think that it was a bit of an unorthodox match as far as the tempo of the match, but I thought we stayed very focused. We talked about being in the point, not being in the past point or the next point, and I thought we did a really nice job of that.”
Wilton had no trouble holding onto the serve throughout the match, going on one 6-0 run, two 5-0 runs and four 4-0 runs while committing just one serving error on the entire night.
Putman and Kortney Drake led the offensive attack, collecting 14 and nine kills, respectively, while Poor chipped in 30 assists. Defensively, Alexis Maurer paced the Beavers with 14 digs.
The knockout punch came from a Drake tap at the net that sailed out of reach of two Mediapolis defenders and found an open spot on the court to seal a 25-12 win in the third set.
“I was just excited for my teammates, they did a great job throughout it all,” Drake said. “It was just exciting knowing that we won that round and are moving on to the next.”
The road to state, however, gets tougher for the Beavers against a Regina team they fell to in five sets earlier in the season.
“It’s no different than I’ve said all year as we approach any match,” Grunder said. “I truly believe it is about ball control. When we can control our first contact, that puts us in a very good spot as far as what we can do from there. So ball control, and then I think taking care of shots, and thirdly, I think that our block has improved a great deal. I feel comfortable putting up a strong block against Regina.”