West Branch and Regina Move On To Regional Championship
By K.J. Pilcher, Reporter
IOWA CITY – Tori Owens doesn't know the last time Iowa City Regina has advanced this far in the prep volleyball postseason.
It is a safe bet she won't forget the latest.
The senior outside hitter helped Regina sweep West Burlington, 25-23, 25-17, 25-16, in an Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union Class 2A region 8 semifinal Friday night at Regina. The Regals (18-11) move within one win of the state tournament, playing 11th-ranked West Branch in the regional final Wednesday at Clear Creek Amana High School in Tiffin.
"This feeling is great," Owens said. "I don't know when the last time Regina has made it this far. I'm proud of my team and how we played."
Owens was a key figure for the Regals. She opened scoring for all three sets with kills, leading the Regina with 23 kills and five ace, while tying Mac Conlon for a team-high 16 digs. When a big play was needed, Owens answered the call.
"I was trying to play my game, hitting the spots I knew were open and getting my serve over," Owens said. "I knew if I did my part my teammates would do their part."
The biggest contribution came in the first set, facing a 21-13 deficit to West Burlington (20-17). Owens served 11 straight points, pulling within game point. She had some pressure to maintain momentum, but believed in her skill. Her coach was confident as well.
"That's what she brings to every match and practice," Regina Coach Megan Eskew said. "She's the most consistent server with Mac Conlon, but that's how she plays every day. I expected nothing less from her than to serve out that game."
Eskew had to regroup the troops before the rally. She grabbed the team's attention during a timeout, trailing 20-12.
"I think I said suck it up and fight," Eskew said. "We came out strong and then we lulled back. This team was super scrappy. They were a fantastic team because they fought for every point and didn't give up easy points."
The Regals began to click after the first-set comeback, playing a quicker tempo. Megan Bonnett set the big hitters like Owens, leading Regina with 36 assists. Regina jumped to a 6-0 lead in the second, closing with 10 of the last 13 points. They had a similar performance in the final set, building an 8-1 edge and finishing with a 10-4 run.
Eskew said she was ecstatic the team was advancing to the regional final with a chance to return to state for the first time since 2003.
"We knew we could get here all along, but to actually get here is awesome," Eskew said. "The girls are extremely excited."