STORM LAKE - Area volleyball teams are just past the midway point of the season, but it won't be long before they start fine-tuning for district and regional playoffs.
The Class 1A prep volleyball playoffs start Monday, Oct. 17, with Class 2A playoffs starting Wednesday, Oct. 19. In 3A, region action begins Monday, Oct. 24.
In 3A, Storm Lake High received an early Christmas present; it opens the post-season at home Oct. 24 against Lakes Conference rival Cherokee.
"It's a huge advantage to be playing on our home court," SLHS coach Jacquie Bauer said Wednesday morning.
"We have come close at times to reaching our potential in the last couple of weeks. Cherokee will be a big challenge for us, but if we play well, we think we can beat them."
The Braves are led by 5-foot-9 outside hitter Kayla Henke, who has 173 kills thus far. In the middle, the Braves' 5-10 hitter Jessica Hunecke has 104 kills thus far.
"They're a solid team and Henke is an extremely versatile hitter," Bauer said. "We stayed right with them when we played them in the Schaller-Crestland tournament, even though we lost the match."
In Class 1A, Region 2, Storm Lake-St. Mary's will open Monday, Oct. 17 vs. Northwest Conference rival Alta. That game will be played in Laurens starting at 7 p.m.
Panther coach Michelle Rubel likes the matchup, especially after her team beat the Cyclones in four games in Alta Tuesday night.
"We have played very well against strong opponents this season, but we haven't won many games against them," she said. "If we beat Alta, we'll probably play Schaller-Crestland, but we haven't seen them yet."
Alta coach Jeannie Henningsen said her team matches up well with St. Mary's despite its loss to the Panthers Tuesday night.
"We beat them 3-0 earlier in the season, but they are a good volleyball team and we'll have to play well," she said. "Tuesday night, we just didn't set up our offense and couldn't get anything going."
The past couple of years, Alta has been in Class 2A, but has moved to 1A this season.
"We're very excited about the pairings," Henningsen added. "Looking at the brackets, we feel we can play with most of the teams we might face. But when playoffs start, we'll take it one game at a time and our first focus will be St. Mary's."
In that same 1A region, Newell-Fonda will open playoff action Monday, Oct. 17 against Laurens Marathon. The Mustangs have slowly been putting things together after losing heavily to graduation last spring.
N-F has dropped two close matches to the Chargers this season, including a taut, five game match last Monday night.
"Our girls are really going to have to be ready to hit the floor and dig," N-F's Craig Davis said.
"We have a lot of respect for Laurens-Marathon. What makes them so tough is that they are fundamentally sound and well-coached. They also are very deep in hitters; they have five girls who can really put the ball down."
Also in Region 2 of 1A, Schaller-Crestland will be heavily favored to win its opener Oct. 17 against conference rival Sac City. The Wildcats have been beaten each of the past two seasons in the region finals.
The Wildcats, should they keep advancing, will play three tournament home games. If they make the region semifinals, that game would be played at Lake View on Oct. 27. The Region 2 Finals will be held in Algona Tuesday, Nov. 1.
Top teams in the region include WLVA, Odebolt-Arthur and North Kossuth.
In Class 1A, Region 1, Aurelia will open the playoffs Oct. 17 against Remsen-St. Mary's in Marcus. If the Bulldogs win their opener, they would meet either Remsen-Union or Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn Oct. 19 in Marcus.
In Class 2A, Sioux Central will open district playoffs Wednesday, Oct. 19 against Pocahontas. As of Wednesday of this week, the Rebels were 16-5 overall and 4-0 in Northwest Conference play.
Should Sioux Central get past Poky, it would most likely meet fourth-ranked Sioux Center in the district finals Tuesday, Oct. 25 at Sioux Center.
"If we play up to our potential, we should be able to get past Pocahontas," Sioux Central coach Sue Mattson said Wednesday afternoon. "Sioux Center would be a tougher matchup, but we feel good about the way we've been playing.
"Our hitting is really starting to come around, and we have three or four girls who hit the ball very hard."