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Local Sports

Baxter loses home opener to ranked Redhawks

BAXTER — North Tama’s three-set win over the Baxter volleyball team on Tuesday said more about the ranked Redhawks than it did about the Bolts.

Baxter played very well in spurts and can take a lot of positives away from the match, but Class 1A No. 8 North Tama was simply better during a 25-16, 25-17, 25-12 in Iowa Star Conference South Division play.

The Bolts were playing in front of their home fans for the first time this season, and they got off to a fast start in the opening set. North Tama though used a strong stretch of serving to flip the script, and the Redhawks were in control the rest of the way.

“We played very well tonight, especially in the first two games,” Baxter coach Scott Ranck said. “North Tama does a lot of things well. They pass it well, the defense is very good and they have a really strong hitter on the outside. They are ranked for a reason.”

The really good hitter on the outside is sophomore Katie Kopriva, who came in the night ranked second in 1A with 233 kills. But junior hitter Karly Jans was strong at the net, too, and sophomore libero Takoa Kopriva led a defense that rarely let balls find open holes.

The only real advantage Baxter held on the night came early in the first set. The Bolts used some homecourt energy to lead 8-5 early in the opener. Senior Jordynn Wesselink powered the lead with two kills and an ace during that stretch.

North Tama chipped away at its deficit and then Jans served up three straight aces to put the Redhawks in front for good.

The Bolts stayed close during the early stages of set two as well. Sophomore Amber Weltha’s kill tied the set at 3-all and then back-to-back aces by sophomore Bekka Watt kept Baxter (5-5 overall, 1-1 in the ISC South) close.

The Bolts took the lead on two Redhawk errors, and a kill by senior Mary Schabilion made it 9-7. A stretch of five straight points gave North Tama (17-3, 3-0) a lead it wouldn’t surrender.

“It’s a lot of work playing a good team. They just kept coming at us,” Ranck said. “When we were aggressive at our offensive end, we gave them some problems. When we hit something at them that they were able set up, it was tough. They wore us down a little bit.”

Kopriva kept the Bolts at arm’s length with three kills down the stretch of the set. The left-handed right-side hitter finished with a match-high 14 kills on the night.

“We moved our libero (Sailor Hinegardner) over to the right side to help with the cross court attack,” Ranck said. “I thought for the most part we covered her up pretty well.”

North Tama, which has only been defeated by 1A No. 1 Janesville and 5A No. 7 Pleasant Valley this season, flexed its muscles a bit in the third set. The Bolts trailed 4-2 early, but the Redhawks used a 7-0 run to pull away. The lead eventually grew to 20-6 before Baxter scored six of the final 11 points to make it respectable.

“We had 17 errors in the final set,” Ranck said. “They scored only eight points themselves in that game. I am not saying we would have won that game, but we can’t have 17 errors in a set.”

Weltha led the Bolts with eight kills. Wesselink and Schabilion finished with five kills and three digs, junior Sydney Schmidt dished out nine assists and senior Lexi Ewing handed out six. Hinegardner led the Bolts with eight digs.

Baxter hosts Meskwaki Settlement School at 7 p.m. Thursday in Baxter.

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