Iowa high school volleyball regional pairings can wait until huge night of matchups

As the last days of September disappear, the Iowa volleyball community awaits the arrival of regional pairings.

The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union implied that those will be released soon. But to the chagrin of coaches across the state, it didn’t clarify when.

It could be Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. IGHSAU official Jason Eslinger said his group is waiting to see how Saturday’s tournaments play out before it charts the map to the state tournament.

But if it were up to me, I’d wait until Wednesday.

Tuesday night offers a pair of juicy showdowns that are worth taking in before setting anything in stone.

In Neola, Class 2-A No. 9 Tri-Center (16-2) will host No. 7 Treynor (19-3) in a Western Iowa Conference battle. In Council Bluffs, 4-A No. 8 Council Bluffs Lewis Central (22-4) will face 3-A No. 2 Carroll Kuemper (26-2) in a pivotal Hawkeye Ten matchup.

“I think that will be a great night for volleyball in southwest Iowa,” Tri-Center coach Rachel Eikenberry said.

It took the Trojans, who lost five regulars from their rotation to graduation, a few weeks to crack the state rankings this fall. But they’ve finally worked their way into the top 10 after dropping two of their first 18 matches.

Treynor, which has come up one win short of a weekend tournament title on three occasions, is responsible for one of those losses. The Cardinals edged Tri-Center in a pair of tense, extra-point sets (30-28, 26-24) at the loaded Red Oak tournament two weeks ago.

Both are 6-0 in conference play through Wednesday. The rematch will likely decide the pecking order at the top of the WIC, and it will take place on “Dig Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Night.”

“We get really excited playing for causes bigger than ourselves,” Eikenberry said, “so I think having that on that night makes it extra special for us.”

Things aren’t quite as straightforward in the Hawkeye Ten. While Carroll Kuemper remained undefeated in conference play, Council Bluffs St. Albert, Lewis Central and Glenwood each have one conference loss.

“It’s kind of what I thought it would be at the beginning of the year,” Lewis Central coach Mike Bond said. “The conference is loaded with good talent, and every week is a tough match.”

Last weekend’s pair of losses at the Unity Christian tournament showed that Kuemper isn’t invincible, but the Knights have only dropped one set in conference play and six on the season.

Lewis Central, meanwhile, has lost once in the 16 matches since falling short to St. Albert in five sets on Sept. 5. The team is coming off a pair of sweeps over Atlantic and Creston and a 5-1 performance at Sioux City West over the weekend.

The last time the Titans took on the Knights, Bond’s team fell in a five-set thriller. Look for Tuesday to be another long night.

“We’re expecting a very close match that could go either way,” Bond said.

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