Cubs clinch fifth HOIC crown in a row

Joe Randleman, Sports Writer
Kacie Rewerts and the No. 9 Nevada volleyball team powered past No. 13 North Polk in four sets Oct. 6 at Alleman. The victory gave the Cubs their fifth-consecutive unbeaten Heart of Iowa Conference championship.

BETTENDORF - The No. 9 Nevada volleyball team closed out the regular season by going 2-4 at the Bettendorf Invitational Saturday.

The Cubs (27-13) swept Muscatine by 21-17 and 21-14 scores and and rolled past Rock Island (Ill.) by 21-8 and 21-14 margins for their two victories during the tournament. The Cubs’ four losses came against Class 5A schools Clinton, Ankeny, Iowa City High and Bettendorf.

Clinton topped Nevada by scores of 21-15 and 21-19; Ankeny — the No. 4 team in 5A — swept the Cubs in a pair of 21-12 matches. Iowa City High — the No. 12 team in 5A — swept Nevada by scores of 21-18 and 21-7.

Nevada also lost to Bettendorf — the No. 9 5A team — in three sets. The Cubs dropped the opening set by a 21-13 score, claimed a 22-20 win in the second and suffered a 15-10 setback in the rally game.

Gillian Tupper recorded 100 assists, 16 digs, 13 kills, one block and one ace for Nevada during the tournament. Abby Stephenson finished with 56 digs, 32 kills, six aces, two assists and one block.

Chloe Davis added 27 digs, 24 kills, four aces, one block and one assist and Kacie Rewerts delivered 29 kills, three blocks and two digs for Nevada. Skye Borton put up 15 kills, 14 digs, three blocks, two assists and one ace and Kelsey Wiederien produced 34 digs, two assists and one ace.

Amanda Fortmann contributed 18 digs, four assists and three aces and Madison Thompson had nine kills, four digs and three blocks. Morgan Tupper registered 11 digs and one assist, Amanda Harter one assist and ace apiece and Madison Stevens one dig.

ALLEMAN - Once again, the Heart of Iowa Conference belongs to Nevada.

The Cubs earned their fifth-consecutive HOIC title on Oct. 6 by defeating North Polk in a battle of two ranked and unbeaten conference teams at Alleman.

Nevada — ranked No. 9 in Class 4A — prevailed in four sets over a North Polk team rated No. 13 in 3A. The Cubs wrapped up an 8-0 run in the HOIC and the Comets fell to 5-1 with two conference games remaining.

Nevada hasn’t lost a conference match since 2011.

This year, the Cubs were expected to receive a serious challenge from both North Polk and Gilbert — two rising programs with a lot of talent returning from last season. Nevada, meanwhile, had to replace the bulk of its roster off last year’s 3A state championship team.

“It was great to be the underdog in all of it, to be honest,” Nevada all-state outside hitter Abby Stephenson said. “We’ve usually been the target — like 'we’ve got to go get Nevada.' Lots of people kind of overlooked us this year, so it was great to really prove that we haven’t gone anywhere. We’re still as good as we ever have been, so it’s great to come out and prove that with a conference championship.”

Nevada came out like a championship team in the opening set versus North Polk. The Cubs built a 16-7 lead and withstood a small North Polk spurt to cruise to a 25-16 victory.

The second set saw North Polk regroup and begin taking it to Nevada.

The Comets rallied from a 15-11 deficit to take a 20-19 lead on a Courtney Bonewitz ace. Nevada tied the score back up at 21-21 and then the Comets scored three-straight points to take charge.

Chloe Davis got a kill to pull Nevada within 24-22, but Hannah Becker connected on a cross-court kill to finish off a 25-22 North Polk victory to even things up at one set apiece.

The third set saw Nevada perform at a higher level to take a 23-18 lead. North Polk pulled within 24-21, but Rewerts came through with a timely block to close out a 25-21 Cub win.

Nevada came out strong in the fourth set. The Cubs built a 21-15 lead, only to see North Polk close within 23-21 following a couple of Nevada errors.

But Hattie Rhodes came up with a big kill, and then North Polk had a fatal error to wrap up a 25-22 Cub victory that gave Nevada another conference championship.

“I’m proud of my whole team,” Nevada setter Gillian Tupper said. “We’re doing really well and the postseason is coming up and I think we’re ready for it. Our goal is to again make it to state and possibly win a championship again.”

If the Cubs do make another run at a state title, Tupper will be a big reason why.

Tupper has had a phenomenal senior season and that was on full display against North Polk. The versatile southpaw showed why she is one of the more well-rounded setters in the state against the Comets after finishing with 42 assists, 10 digs, four kills, three blocks and three aces.

“A lot of it’s from my passes,” Tupper said. “My passes have been pretty good the whole season, so they make my options more open and I can attack when I need to and it usually works out. The team makes it easy and being left-handed helps — most setters aren’t left-handed, so they don’t see it coming.”

Stephenson was her usual outstanding self against North Polk. She totaled 29 digs, 13 kills, three aces, one block and one assist.

Stephenson’s play in the back row was especially key against North Polk. The Cubs needed strong back-row play and a great block against all-state North Polk outside hitter Hannah Becker — a Southern Illinois recruit — and they got both, recording 88 digs and eight blocks.

“Jill, Skye (Borton), Kacie and Hattie shut her down for the most part, then we had (a) great defense back (row),” Stephenson said. “Of course she’ll get good hits — she’s a great hitter. We’ve just got to make sure that we pull ourselves back once those happen and (are) ready to play some defense again and we did just that.”

Rewerts had a big night as well. She totaled 12 kills and two blocks.

Rhodes delivered eight kills, five digs, two blocks and one assist. Chloe recorded 15 digs, 10 kills, one assist and one ace and Borton ended up with 13 digs, four kills and two assists.

Kelsey Wiederien also played well at the libero for Nevada. She totaled 15 digs and one ace.

North Polk fell to 28-8 overall. Becker still managed 23 kills despite Nevada’s tough defensive effort and she added 20 digs for the Comets in a losing effort.

Courtney Bonewitz had 35 digs, Grace Nelson 25 assists and Danielle Bonewitz 22 assists for North Polk. Bonewitz also contributed three aces and Rebecca Rimathe chipped in two blocks.

NEVADA - Nevada made short work of Greene County Oct. 4 on senior night at the Nevada High School Field House.

The Cubs swept the Rams by scores of 25-12, 25-14 and 25-17 to improve to 7-0 in the Heart of Iowa Conference and 24-9 overall.

Nevada recorded a strong .297 kill-efficiency rate with 38 kills against 11 errors in 97 attacks. The Cubs went 68 of 73 serving with nine aces and they compiled 48 digs and six blocks on defense.

Gillian Tupper finished with 30 assists, four kills, four digs and two aces for Nevada in the win. Abby Stephenson put up 15 kills, eight digs, two assists and two aces.

Kacie Rewerts delivered six kills and one block and Hattie Rhodes five kills, four digs, two blocks and one assist. Chloe Davis added three kills, eight digs, four aces, three assists and one block.

Skye Borton finished with five kills, three digs and two blocks. Kelsey Wiederien tacked on 17 digs and one ace and Amanda Fortmann four digs.