DUNKERTON — Wapsie Valley’s first two victories over Tripoli this season were not exactly easy.
The sixth-ranked Warriors knew getting a third would be downright difficult.
After sweeping the Panthers twice in the regular season, Wapsie Valley had to work a little harder and a little longer, but in the end the Warriors (23-15) pulled out a 27-25, 25-20, 20-25, 25-17 win Tuesday in a Class 1A regional final to earn the program’s sixth state tournament berth and first since 2017.
“That was a fun match,” Warriors head coach Heather Robinson said. “I knew it was going to be like this. It is Tripoli and it is the postseason, so you know it is going to be a battle.”
Tripoli was looking for its third consecutive and 20th overall state tournament berth and was playing some of its best volleyball at the right time.
Behind a pair of 6-foot-1 hitters — Zoe Semelroth and McKenna Schaufenbuel — the Panthers (18-21) refused to go down easily, and that began from the start of the match.
“We got better each time we played them, improved,” Tripoli head coach Courtney Anderson said. “We felt coming into this match that we were prepared and that we’d fight, and I just loved our energy and our girls just fought throughout.”
Wapsie Valley jumped out to a 9-3 lead, but some strong serving and Warrior attack errors gradually allowed Tripoli to work its way back into the set. In fact, after not leading the entire set, a kill by freshman Mallory Mueller and a block by Mueller and Semelroth sparked a 4-0 run that gave the Panthers a set point.
But Wapsie Valley answered with one of Lydia Imbrogno’s 19 kills and eventually, the Warriors were able to pull it out with a back-to-back kills by Imbrogno and Kalvyn Rosengarten.
In the second set, Wapsie Valley led almost from start to finish, but then got a little ahead of itself in the third set as Tripoli got strong play from Semelroth as she recorded eight of her 18 kills.
“We got a little uppity,” said Warriors setter Kaci Beesecker, who was on the 2017 qualifying squad. “We had to calm ourselves down, clean up some things and then get back to being aggressive.
“We knew Tripoli was going to be a tough team, and this would be a hard match and they definitely gave us a good battle.
The fourth set saw Tripoli with a 10-8 lead after a Schaufenbuel kill. But it was at that point Wapsie Valley took over.
A 13-3 run that saw Katie Sauerbrei and Imbrogno combined for three blocks allowed the Warriors to seize control, take matters into their own hands to punch their ticket to the state tournament.
“We had to get back to being aggressive,” Robinson said. “We had gotten away from that a little bit.”
Beesecker added nine kills while directing the Warriors offense and Rosengarten, a freshman, had 12 finishes. Tripoli’s Mueller added 10 kills in addition to Semelroth’s 18.
Wapsie Valley will play Janesville (33-11) in a first-round state tournament match next Wednesday at 8 p.m.
“This year being a senior, I just wanted to get to state again, and this is just an amazing feeling,” Beesecker said.