DYERSVILLE, Iowa — Call it a shrewd move by a coaching vet or a brain fart. Either way, coach Todd Troutman’s “mistake” when he messed up the Dyersville Beckman lineup in Set 3 of the Trailblazers’ season-opening prep volleyball match put his unproven team to the test.
And the young Blazers passed.
“I did everything I could to bury ourselves,” Troutman said, chuckling, “and the girls picked me up.”
Two new-look Dubuque County squads took the floor on Thursday when Western Dubuque visited Beckman for a volleyball triangular with Independence. The Blazers beat the Mustangs, 3-1, while the Bobcats lost to Independence in four sets.
Beckman swept WD, 25-19, 25-22, 25-19, as the Telegraph Herald went to press.
This early in the season, though, both rosters are trying to see how the pieces fit together. The Iowa Class 2A No. 3-ranked Blazers return just one starter — Paige McDermott — from their state tournament semifinal run last season. WD features two freshmen and three sophomores in its regular rotation.
Unintentionally, Troutman put adversity on his own team. His third-set lineup card error forced starting middle Kylee Rueber to the bench, right side Kiersten Schmitt to play middle and even saw McDermott taking reps in serve receive for the first time in her career.
Beckman prevailed, nonetheless. After a shaky start, the Blazers used a 9-1 run for a 17-10 lead and closed the set with a 25-18 victory. That gave Beckman a 2-1 advantage in the match, and the Blazers closed things off with a 25-22 Set 4 win, with McDermott’s tip-kill sealing the match.
The lesson here: There’s still a versatile Beckman team taking the floor in 2019.
“There’s always going to be six good players on the court,” Troutman said. “Talk to each other, communicate. They bailed me out big time on that one.”
The Independence match also served as the Blazers debut of Jada Wills, a two-time Class 4A second-team all-state outside with Dubuque Hempstead. The now-senior didn’t disappoint with a match-high 15 kills along with 16 digs.
Now in her fourth year as a starter, Wills has more varsity experience than the rest of the Beckman players combined. She’s a nice weapon to have on a young roster, said McDermott.
“She’s an amazing person, an amazing gal, an amazing player,” McDermott said of Wills. “It’s definitely a great addition having her on the team.”
McDermott finished with nine kills and a match-high seven blocks to pace the Blazers.
The young Bobcats already had their first big test when they dropped a see-saw five-set match to Hempstead in Tuesday’s season opener. WD got off to a faster start this time around, with sophomore setter Madison Maahs serving nine straight points with an ace to give the Bobcats a 16-8 lead on Independence in Set 1. The Mustangs never got within three of WD after that, with Madelin Harris’ kill putting the Bobcats to set point and Maahs closing out the 25-19 win with another ace.
But the “growing pains” bore through as the match continued, according to coach Megan Scherrman. WD dug itself into early holes in the remaining three sets, including a 6-0 deficit to start Set 4, and couldn’t climb out as it fell, 25-22, 25-23 and 25-11.
“I think it’s just finding that gel,” Scherrman said. “We have our bits and pieces where we look like a well-oiled machine and it’s trying to get that together for 25 points. We have our ruts where we’re getting five, six errors in a row and that’s killing us right now.”
Meredith Bahl led the Bobcats with 11 kills and three aces and Maahs dished out 34 assists against Independence.