CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — It’s virtually inevitable: all of the best runs in sports come to an end.
In 2018, Dyersville Beckman composed the greatest volleyball season in program history. The Trailblazers entered each match this year confident that they’d take care of the job and left almost all of them gaining reaffirmation — that this indeed is a great, great volleyball team.
There are a lot of those in the Iowa Class 2A state tournament field, though. Beckman met its end at the hands of a Unity Christian team that’s been to the U.S. Cellular Center four of the last five seasons boasting a pair of hard-swinging players that proved the Knights are also elite.
Corrina Timmermans had 24 kills, Unity teammate Jori Bronner finished with 19 and the fourth-seeded Knights ousted the top-seeded Blazers in four sets during the 2A state semifinals on Thursday.
“They’re a good team,” said Unity coach Patty Timmermans. Her team will face No. 2 Western Christian in the 2A championship match today. “They’ve got a great setter who can put the ball in the hitters’ hands. They run a quick middle. Their outsides come with a real power shot. They can hit line, they can hit cross.
“They’re capability to do all that probably carried them throughout the season. … A lot of us 2A coaches evaluated that (the tournament field) was anybody’s. It was going to come down to who was going to step up and turn away the other team’s favorite tendencies.”
The loss closes Beckman’s season at 44-4. Only 5A’s Cedar Falls (45-0) and 3A’s Carroll Kuemper Catholic (44-1) have a chance to finish with more wins throughout the state of Iowa. Both teams advanced to their respective state championships today.
Both Unity’s coach and Beckman coach Todd Troutman agreed: the 2A tournament field might be the deepest out of any of Iowa’s five classes this year. The Knights had to knock off defending champion Dike-New Hartford and the Blazers fended off an upstart Wilton team that defeated the previous top-ranked team, Grundy Center, in their respective quarterfinals. Awaiting Unity Christian is a Western Christian team that boasts 16 state championships, second only to Dubuque Wahlert’s state record of 19.
“Any of these eight teams down here could’ve come away with this title and our thought process was ‘why not us,’” said Troutman, who just wrapped up the second year of his second stint coaching the Blazers. His team made it to back-to-back state tournaments for the first time since 2001 and appeared in the semifinals for the first time since 2006. “We didn’t overlook anybody, we didn’t look past anybody. But we knew it was going to be a battle, and tomorrow will be a battle (for Unity) too.”
The Knights flipped the script on the Blazers, and beat them Beckman-style with long runs and few errors. A kill by Bronner pushed Unity to set point and Corrina Timmermans ended Set 1 two plays later with a kill, 25-21.
Sydney Arens served six straight points at the start of Set 2 to help give Beckman a 9-3 lead. The Blazers never again trailed, fending off a Knights comeback with a 3-1 run to close the set. Sydney Steffen and Ellie Bildstein teamed up for a block to clinch Set 2, 25-20, and even the match at a set apiece.
“They came out and they played phenomenal and we didn’t play our best game of the year. That’s what it came down to,” said tear-filled Heather Boeckenstedt, who finished with a team-high 19 kills. “We got farther than we did last year and one step closer to our goal (of a championship). ... When you come into a program, you’ve just got to think you want to make it better when you leave it. … We left a legacy here at Beckman.”
The Blazers surrendered four of the final five points on errors and lost Set 4, 25-18.
Isabelle Bennett finished with 10 kills for Beckman, Steffen had 43 assists and Arens added 21 digs.
“They had the momentum and we couldn’t seem to get points put together,” said Bennett, also misty-eyed. “I’m extremely proud of the team and how we battled the whole season. Most of us are seniors and it means a lot for us to go out with a good season.”
From the start of the season, Troutman said this is a Beckman program he hopes to make perennial state tournament dwellers. The loss concludes the careers of six senior starters who, in Troutman’s words, truly blazed a trail for Beckman.
What these Blazers accomplished this year, he said, should inspire generations of Dyersville volleyball players after them.
“What sticks out is just the toughness,” Troutman said of the senior class. “They always believed, they always kept swinging and supporting one another. They’ve left the blueprint on how to get things done. Younger kids in our program have seen that.”