CEDAR RAPIDS – It’s machine-like. Three sets, three wins, repeat the next match. Only twice this season has Dike-New Hartford had to play four sets. Each time it always ends with a win. Even the post match interviews are robotic. Cliché here, company line there, just on to the next one.
The next one will be for a state championship, the Wolverines’ second straight after an easy – but customary – three set sweep of Council Bluffs St. Albert in the 2A semifinals. A win would end their year with a flawless 45-0 record and 57 straight wins overall.
“We really don’t talk about that,” Dike-New Hartford head coach Diane Harms said. “Hopefully we just go into each match focusing, trying to do what we need to do to come out and be successful in that match.”
Somewhere Bill Belichick is smiling. OK, maybe not smiling, but the business-like attitude would make him proud. After each of the Wolverines two wins, there were no ecstatic cheers – customary for each point at the state tournament, nevermind wins – but only smiles and congratulatory hugs.
It’s not a surprise Dike-New Hartford steamrolled through the regular season and thus far through the postseason. It’s success, but not the success they’re looking for. No need to get too happy yet.
“Well, we’re playing tomorrow night so we’re very happy about that,” Harms said. “I thought we played very well tonight so hopefully we’ll duplicate that again (Saturday).”
The Saintes tested the Wolverines early in the first, possessing a 9-6. There was no panic, no timeout, just the same old mechanics.
On the same court earlier in the day, Mediapolis, boasting the same 44-0 record as Dike-New Hartford, fell behind early too. The Bullettes had lost just three sets all season, but matched that total Friday with an exit from the tournament.
The Wolverines responded the only way their system seems to be programmed, by winning. They built a 5-0 run and won the game 25-17 and never trailed again.
“We just talked about getting back together, getting back in our rhythm, and I think we just handled it very well,” sophomore Briana Weber said.
They won the next two by scores of 25-14. The runs the Saintes strung together suddenly stopped. After stringing runs of 3-0 and 4-0 together in the first, St. Albert scored back-to-back points four times the rest of the match after it led 9-6.
“You just got to go out there and play your game and try not to make very many mistakes along the way,” St. Albert head coach Angie Lantz said. “Dike’s a good team all the way around. There’s a reason why they’re ranked the way they are.”
The Wolverines stand atop the state rankings, no matter the class, and No. 9 nationally. They got there with machine-like precision. The goal might as well be perfection.
Midway through the third, with her team up 11-6, Weber went up for a kill, like a jungle cat waiting to pounce on its prey. She swung through with all her force and the ball scraped the top of the net, and fell for a point. She stared up at the rafters with a chuckle of entertainment. Good but not perfect.
At 12-8 she got her next opportunity. The set was perfect. She elevated, she stalked the defenseless tri-color sphere, unleashing a ferocious swing. When ball struck the ground, she pumped her fist with as much force as she delegated the ball along with a successful growl.
Perfection, a time to celebrate – just like a what a win would bring Saturday.
“It drives us a lot,” Weber said. “We worked really hard for it this year and we just want it so bad.”