Through the past four seasons, the West Branch Bears have been a consistent volleyball winner.
And a relatively anonymous one.
They haven’t been to state, and they haven’t received a lot of attention. But check this out — as four-year starters, Heather Poula, Kelley Trimble, Paige Donohoe and Kelli Vaughan have won a lot of matches.
“They’ve played since they were freshmen, and they’ve been a part of a lot of success,” said Bears Coach Josh Lukavsky, in his third season.
West Branch is 109-24 since that quartet arrived, including 16-1 this season. The Bears are ranked No. 3 in Class 2A.
“The big key with this group is its balance,” Lukavsky said. “Heather stands out with her hitting a little, and our serving and serve reception allows us to run a quicker offense.”
Poula, who is nursing tendonitis in her wrist, leads the Bears with 3.06 kills per game, followed by sophomore Madison Russell (2.75) and Trimble (2.08). Vaughan, the setter, averages 6.18 assists per game while Donohoe spearheads the back row with a team-high 4.38 digs per game.
Coming off a 35-6 campaign in 2011, the Bears had an idea they were in for a big season. The fire was accelerated when they won a summer title at the Iowa State team camp.
The only loss came against 1A No. 1 Grundy Center, and the Bears have followed that with 11 straight wins. The Bears stand in a three-way tie for the Cedar Valley Conference lead at 4-0, and face the other contenders soon — Sept. 27 at Durant and Oct. 1 at home against West Liberty.
Then comes the postseason, something that hasn’t been very fruitful in girls’ sports at West Branch in some time. The Bears have never qualified for the state volleyball tournament, and haven’t been to state basketball or softball since the 1970s.
“I’ve been talking to some of the coaches in other sports, and we feel that once we can get to one state tournament, it will be like a domino effect,” Lukavsky said.
Wamac East: The real race begins
A four-team scramble is about to begin sorting itself out in the Wamac Conference East Division.
Mount Vernon (14-2, 3-1) is at West Delaware (19-3, 3-0) on Tuesday. The Hawks have won 10 straight matches.
On Oct. 2, Mount Vernon plays at Solon (15-3, 3-0) while Maquoketa (9-3, 3-1) travels to West Delaware. Then, in a match to be televised live on KCRG 9.2, West Delaware is at Solon in a showdown that could decide the title.
West Delaware’s Leslie Hoffmann leads the division in hitting, with 3.88 kills per set and a .492 kill efficiency.