NEWTON — There’s no place like home when you want to get back on the winning track.
Newton’s Cardinals plan to bring it to the court from match one Saturday morning at the 2013 NHS Cardinal Volleyball Invitational. The Cardinals have spent most of the season so far on the road.
Starting with the tournament, they play in the friendly confines of the NHS gym three times out of six playing dates to finish the regular season. They saw a nine-match winning streak snapped last Saturday at the Nevada tournament, and have lost three in a row.
“We look forward to the competition (this Saturday), and seeing where we are at this point in the season,” said Kim Florke, Cardinal head coach. “This tournament is full of really good volleyball teams. I think there are four or five teams here capable of winning this tournament. It will come down to who plays the best on Saturday.”
Newton’s senior-laden team comes in working hard for consistent play. A year ago, the Cardinals lost to Harlan, 25-17, 25-15, in the championship match. Harlan, top-ranked in Class 4A, is shooting for its third consecutive Cardinal Invitational title. Harlan fearures All-State standout Jess Schaben, a junior hitter with 192 kills.
“Our goal is to play Harlan for the championship, but that will not be an easy task. Both Eddyville-Blakesburg and Boone will be tough matches for us in our pool,” Florke said. “I like that we get to play three teams in pool play that we haven’t played this year.”
Action begins Saturday at 8:30 a.m. There are two four-team pools. Teams in Pool A, which are Newton, Des Moines North, Class 2A’s fifth-ranked Eddyville-Blakesburg, and Class 4A’s 15th-ranked Boone, play in the NHS upper gym. Pool B — Carlisle, Harlan, Knoxville, and Class 4A’s 12th-ranked Pella — will be in the NHS lower gym.
Admission is $6 for adults and $4 for students.
The top two teams in each pool advance to championship pool matches to be played in the upper gym. The bottom two teams in each pool advance to consolation pool play in the NHS lower gym.
There is a 30-minute break between the conclusion of pool play and start of championship-consolation round matches.
Newton (16-7) opens against Des Moines North at 8:30 a.m. on court No. 1. The Cardinals take on Eddyville-Blakesburg next on court No. 2, and finish pool play against Boone on court No. 1.
Cardinals’ bring the heat from the outside with senior outside hitters Michaela Bleeker and Holly Vander Pol. Bleeker has been striking the volleyball pretty well at the net the past few weeks. Bleeker leads the team and the Little Hawkeye Conference with 218 kills, that’s third in Class 4A. Vander Pol is eighth in the conference and second on the team with 89 kills.
Seniors Bailey Beaderstadt, a middle blocker and hitter, and Amber Karsten, a right-side hitter, have provided plenty of power at the net also. Beaderstadt has 53 kills, plus 19 assisted blocks and four solo blocks. Karsten put down 48 kills so far this season.
Jennifer Ventling, who was sidelined early in the season with an injury, has worked her way back as a middle blocker/hitter. The senior has delivered 32 kills, and has nine assisted blocks and two solo blocks on the season.
Kacy Cazett, who is playing her second year at libero, has settled in as the Cardinals’ defensive specialist on the back row. Cazett has 122 digs for the team. Vander Pol leads the team with 137 digs, and Bleeker has 127 digs.
“Last Saturday, we had different people step up and play well at different times. As we found out this week, we’re still not consistent across the board. This team doesn’t get down on themselves, but we have to be ready to play from the beginning of each match, each set,” Florke said. “Nevada was our first Saturday tournament. I feel like we’re a team that does not like to wait to play. We have to be physically and mentally sharp all the way through matches and tournaments.”
Senior Sydney Bergman and freshman Megan Pressgrove share the setting duties for Newton. Bergman is a back-row setter with 153 assists. Pressgrove sets off the front-row, and has 171 assists this season, plus she has 38 kills along with 15 assisted blocks and two solo blocks at the net.
Newton serves at 90 percent as a team. Beaderstadt is a 92.9-percent server with 33 service aces, which is second in the LHC. Bleeker has 27 service aces, and Pressgrove has 26 aces.
In her 15th year as Newton head coach, Florke announced this was her final season. Winning Saturday’s tournament is one of several team goals set by the Cardinals.
“It will be tough because of the strong competition from the teams coming to the tournament. We have the team that can do it, if we play well Saturday,” Florke said.