CEDAR RAPIDS – The path to the Sioux Center locker room was encased between ice and concrete, not leading to much emotion. But as each Warrior made their way out of the dressing room, they did so with puffy cheeks and teary eyes.
Minutes before, they fell to Union in five sets. The fifth was decided by three points 15-12. The emotion was more than just a defeat, it was that they had given everything, and still come up short. But Thursday everything wasn’t 100-percent.
A week ago, Jennifer Buyert tore her anterior cruciate ligament. Injuries that sideline the biggest and strongest of the NFL, only hampered the Sioux Center junior. This was a moment she wouldn’t be denied.
“It says a lot. It says a lot about her passion for this team. It says a lot about how hard she wants to work and how much she loves the game of volleyball,” Sioux Center head coach Julie Oldenkamp said as she too fought back tears. “She’s a huge part of this team. I wanted to give her every chance to play today.”
Sioux Center came to the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena as one of the favorites in 3A. Not having its leader in blocks and third leading attacker hurt those odds, as the Warriors went home early.
“It’s so hard to see a player hurt, sharing this trip with her teammates just like anybody else but to not to be able to play to her full ability is just so disappointing for her and her teammates because she’s played really well,” Oldenkamp said. “It’s not only about her, it’s about how her teammates respond to her and what she does for the team.”
Despite the early return home, Buyert wasn’t hanging her head, after a performance that few in the world could perform.
“It was very important (to play). It was really hard with my knee but I really wanted to play,” Buyert said. “It was definitely a lot of things I normally can do but I really tried to do my best for my team.”
A busy week
For most teams in the state volleyball tournament, a perfect week amounts to three wins, culminating with a state championship on Saturday. For Mount Vernon head coach Maggie Willems, she needed four wins. The best she can hope for is 3-1.
Her husband, Nate Willems, lost his seat in the House of Representatives Tuesday.
Unlike her matches this week in the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena, there wasn’t much control Willems had in her family’s contest on Tuesday.
“Tuesday, we do a lot of times, I’m a coach,” Maggie Willems said. “Sometimes I think that probably frustrates him. The fact on Monday night I was talking through the various scenarios and he was like ‘I can’t take any more of this.’ So sometimes I have to stop coaching and just sit on the sidelines and watch with him, which is a good thing for me too.”
There wasn’t much of sitting at all this week for the couple. Nate Willems’ 18-month campaign came to a halt Tuesday, while her two month volleyball season peaks during the next three two days. On top of that, they have a 3-year-old and 4-year-old at home as well.
“I don’t know if there’s a busier area that you’ll find in the area,” Maggie Willems said.
Maggie Willems’ schedule got a little busier with Mount Vernon winning their match on Thursday.