Red Oak coach Angie Montgomery knows that if her team and MOC-Floyd Valley went through a series of athletic tests, the Tigers probably wouldn’t win the comparison.
She’s fine with that. And it doesn’t change her belief in her squad.
Ninth-rated Red Oak (27-6) will meet No. 3 MOC-Floyd Valley at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in a Class 3-A state volleyball quarterfinal at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.
Montgomery feels her club can combat the Dutch’s athletic prowess with defensive desire and headiness.
“Sometimes a great dig can get in their head as much as a big block,” she said. “I think defensively we’ve really peaked at this point in our year.”
Make no mistake, Red Oak can also put away the ball. Five-foot-9 sophomore jumping jack Kate Walker averages a team-high 3.15 kills per set with .330 efficiency. Sophomore Grace Blomstedt (6-1) is next at 2.96 and .402, while 5-7 freshman Angela Mahoney is a rising star at 2.28 and .209.
However, the Tigers don’t match up physically at the net. A 6-footer, junior outside Alexis Conaway is considered one of the state’s best all-around athletes. She ranks third in 3-A in kills per set (4.12) and kill efficiency (.427). She led the Dutch to a 27-1 basketball record last year and a runner-up finish in 3-A, and is the reigning 3-A high-jump champ.
The other top hitters are 6-1 junior Emily McDonald (2.23 kills per set), 5-10 junior Shelby Schouten (2.16) and 5-8 junior Katie Landhuis (1.62).
Not surprisingly, the Dutch are capable of putting up a strong block.
“It’s going to take a lot of creative work on the part of our hitters,” Montgomery said.
The reason Red Oak carries belief into the match is because it has faced similarly tall front lines in the Hawkeye Ten Conference and been highly competitive.
“I think our conference has prepared our teams immensely well for the state tournament,” Montgomery said. “We’ve seen some very strong outside hitters from Lewis Central, Kuemper, Harlan, Clarinda. We’re ready for a strong outside attack.”
Red Oak played at an extremely high level in a pressurized regional semifinal win over Clarinda. Even though she plays many underclassmen, Montgomery firmly believes they’ll be ready to compete.
“These kids have the confidence,” she said. “I’m not concerned one bit that they’ll be overwhelmed by the situation.”
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