Hinton sweeps Ridge View to reach state volleyball tourney
CHEROKEE – Ashlyn Kovarna has confidence in all of her hitters, but once she saw Carlene Hicklin’s confidence hitting level, she kept feeding her junior classmate the volleyball. “Carlene, oh my,” said Kovarna. “Once I let it go, I knew that was a kill. I had so much confidence in her. It was really good.”
Hicklin slammed a season-high 10 kills Wednesday night for fourth-ranked Hinton, which qualified for the Class 2A state tournament following a 25-21, 25-21, 25-14 sweep over No. 15 Ridge View at Cherokee High School.
Directing a balanced offense, Kovarna dished 35 assists. Bailey Boeve paced Hinton (26-2) with 11 kills and enters this Tuesday’s 4 p.m. first-round 2A state tournament match at Xtream Arena in Coralville against fifth-seeded Denver (36-10) third among the state’s freshmen with 300 kills. It was Boeve’s 18th double-digit kill effort of the season, but hitting balance was the key against Ridge View, a regional finalist for the second straight year.
Kovarna, a 6-foot setter/right-side hitter, also had nine kills for a Hinton volleyball program which made prior Class 2A state appearances in 2005 and 2013. Avery Burgad, a 5-foot-10 junior middle hitter, contributed five kills, one more than 5-10 senior middle hitter Natalee Junck.
“As we get to tougher competition, teams are going to key in on Bailey because she is such a strong hitter,” said Hinton co-head coach Kate Ortegren. “That is our game plan. (Boeve) did her full job of either going up to hit or pulling the block, which really opened up our outsides. All of our hitters did so well tonight. Having strong forces on your team can open up the offense as well.”
Games 1 and 2 were extremely close. Ridge View (30-8), the Western Valley Conference champion and War Eagle Conference runner-up Hinton combined for seven lead changes and 12 ties in the first two sets. However, Hinton stretched a narrow 4-3 Game 3 lead as Kovarna went on a 5-point service run, thanks in part to 5-9 outside hitter Hicklin, who recorded two straight kills. Ridge View added to the Blackhawks’ scoring total by recording three straight hitting errors to suddenly trail 9-3. Hicklin continued her production by contributing offensively and defensively as Game 3 continued. Following Boeve’s kill, Hicklin and Burgad (10 blocks) combined on a block, Hicklin followed with a kill while Burgad’s block stretched the advantage to 20-10.
“When we’re balanced, it makes the other team not really know where they are going to block and defend,” said Hicklin. “That’s why we kept winning because no matter who we got the ball to, we got a kill. We have a really well-rounded team.”
Hinton also displayed defensive balance. Four players reached double-digit dig totals – Boeve (17), Belle DeRocher (16), Hicklin (13) and Junck (12), while 5-4 senior libero Aubree Lake added nine for a squad which dove to the floor numerous times while defending Ridge View outside hitter Rowan Jensen and 5-10 middle hitter Sydney Blackmore, who entered with 347 and 207 kills, respectively.
Meanwhile, Kovarna and Junck each recorded four blocks. Boeve had three, one more than Hicklin.
“Our defense was amazing,” said Burgad. “This was the best we have ever played, defensively, especially our blocking. We had a lot of blocks like we usually do, but I thought our back row defense was amazing.”
“I was a little unhappy with a few of the net calls because we have been working on our blocking,” said Ortegren. “Our serving and our blocking was a little overly aggressive. We talk about knowing where their strong hitters are and being ready to block when they are going to go. Their communication at the net has gotten a lot better too.”
Hinton, the fourth-seed in next week’s first-ever state tournament at Coralville, improved to 10-2 this season against state-ranked teams. Among those wins was a 2-1 decision over their upcoming opponent Denver on Oct. 8 at the Western Christian Tournament.
“We got where we wanted,” said Burgad. “And we’re not done.”
Update: A previous version of this article stated Hinton had a 7-2 record against state-ranked teams. The team's record against teams ranked in the final IGHSAU rankings is actually 10-2. This has been updated in the story.