CEDAR RAPIDS -- There's no substitute for experience.
Osage quickly found itself at home inside the U.S. Cellular Center as the Green Devils swept first-time state qualifier Tipton, 25-18, 25-19, 25-18, Wednesday morning in the opening round of the Class 3A state volleyball tournament.
"Being able to be in this position again is awesome," said senior outside hitter Kelsey Havel, one of six contributors back from last year's team that was defeated by eventual finalist Union. "You know what's going to happen. You have the feel of it.
"There's pressure of being down below (the crowd). Everyone is watching and it's a much bigger environment. I feel like we took that from last year and definitely capitalized on it this year. "
Havel finished with 12 kills and middle Sydney Midlang added 10 with Rylie Olson distributing 35 assists for an Osage team (26-9) that out-hit Tipton (32-7), .269 to .139. Libero Courtney Chambers led the back row with 10 digs.
Freshmen starters Danielle Johnson and Paige Kisley also embraced the moment for Osage as they tallied eight and four kills, respectively.
After pulling away early in the first set, Osage delivered strong closing statements in the final two frames. The Green Devils finished set two on an 8-3 run and overcame a 16-14 deficit to win set three.
"It only takes one of them to say, 'OK, let's take a deep breath, let's get calmed down, let's get this pass,'" Osage coach Andie Olson said. "They all respond to each other. It's not a one-man show, and they all respect each other. I think that's what separates us from other teams. They all can be that leader at any moment."
Added Havel, "We worked really hard throughout the season about drawing that line in the sand and saying, 'No more,' and making that final push to win the game."
Osage will return to action in the Class 3A semifinal round 2 p.m. Thursday against either top-ranked Sioux Center or Red Oak.