CEDAR RAPIDS -- It's not always easy to command attention within an offense that possesses Dike-New Hartford's arsenal of volleyball weapons.
Yet, once Amber Rickert decided to speak up, a new dimension was added to the Wolverines' potent attack.
Rickert turned in as efficient of a performance as could be imagined Wednesday afternoon, landing 17 kills on 22 swings with just one error during Dike-New Hartford's dominant sweep of Wapsie Valley in the first round of the Class 2A state tournament, 25-12, 25-9, 25-9.
The middle attacker was one of three effective options for senior setter Madison Hedges who distributed 36 assists with the Wolverines out-hitting Wapsie Valley, .414 to .012. Sophomore outside hitter Morgan Weber tallied 16 kills at .517 efficiency, and senior outside hitter Baylee Petersen finished with 10 kills on .364 hitting.
A somewhat soft-spoken competitor, Rickert attributes becoming more vocal as a key to her growth.
"At the beginning of the season we did not connect very well because I didn't talk," Rickert admitted as she detailed the relationship with her veteran setter. "Being able to communicate more really helps.
"I feel like I just wanted to help out the team more and contribute more so I just decided to start talking more."
Dike-New Hartford coach Diane Harms credits Rickert's growth as an asset within a squad that compiled a 48-3 record with all losses to Class 5A competition. D-NH is competing in the 2A field after winning the program's 12th state championship in Class 3A a year ago.
"Anytime you can have a middle that's a threat, the block can't release to your outsides so that definitely helps," Harms said. "Amber is a very athletic young lady. She jumps well, she reaches high and she's very mobile in the middle. She doesn't always attack from the exact same spot."
University of Texas recruit Sydney Petersen once again stabilized D-NH's back row with 16 digs and Baylee Petersen added 11 while the Wolverines served 11 aces and allowed none.
"We knew what we were going to go up against," said Wapsie Valley coach Heather Robinson, who suffered a loss to D-NH during North Iowa Cedar League East league play. "Unfortunately, we couldn't control the ball as much as we would like to on serve receive, and they did a nice job of taking us out of system."
Junior Mikenna Joerger's 10 kills paced a Wapsie Valley team that clicked during regional play and finished with a 21-16 record.
Dike-New Hartford will face either Unity Christian or Council Bluffs St. Albert 4 p.m. Thursday in the Class 2A semifinals.