Iowa Rockets clinch 2nd place at nationals
The high school volleyball season does not officially start until August 9 with the first day of training, but Gabby Deery and Sophia Armstrong have started to hone their skills.
Deery, who will be a junior at Notre Dame High School, and Armstrong, a junior at West Burlington High School, played together on the Iowa Rockets 16U club team last season.
The two local players helped their team reach the championship game of the 2021 U.S. National Junior Girls Volleyball Championship on July 5 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Rockets went 10-1 in the United States 16 bracket, advancing to the championship game before losing 29-31, 25-23, 15-10 to AS 16-Marc, a team from Georgia.
Deery and Armstrong hope to use the experience as a springboard for the school season.
“It was a different experience, both on and off the pitch,” Deery said. “It started with mask protocols and spectator restrictions and ended as usual. I had a great time. Everyone is pushing you to improve. We played a really tough competition and it made me a better player. “
“We played against teams from Texas, California, New York, everywhere. There were 48 teams that qualified and we finished second. It was a great experience to play with other people,” he said. Armstrong said.
For Deery and Armstrong, it was the second time they had competed in the national tournament together. They became friends thanks to volleyball. But when it comes time for Notre Dame to play West Burlington, they put their friendship aside for a few hours.
“It’s kind of crazy. We’re close friends, but at the start of the school season we’re rivals from crosstown,” Armstrong said. “Gabby started playing club a year before me. I heard about it from Sydney (Marlow). I met one of the Rockets coaches and he thought it would be great for me. great fun. It was a great decision. “
“I love playing with Sophia,” Deery said. “It’s so much fun to have someone from our region playing on the same team. It was very fun.
The Rockets have lost just five of the 26 sets they have played. With Deery and Armstrong up front, they had a strong front line.
The Rockets qualified for the national tournament by competing in tournaments in Denver and St. Louis. Once in Las Vegas, officials rolled out the red carpet.
“It was almost like the Olympics,” Deery said. “They called your name and played music and stuff. It was really cool.”
“We played volleyball a lot. There were over 300 different schools there so it was great to have that visibility,” Armstrong said. “It was a lot of fun playing with my team. It was a great environment.”
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Deery and the Nike will begin their Class 1A State Championship defense on August 28 at the Bondurant-Farrar tournament.
Armstrong and the Falcons, who tied New London for the SEI Superconference South Division title last season, will open the year on August 23 at the WACO tournament.
Deery and Armstrong have already circled October 12 on their calendars. That’s when the Nike will play in West Burlington. For a few hours that night, Deery and Armstrong will put their friendship aside and begin to walk away.
Each woman for herself.
I’m so excited. We have a new coach and a freshman joining the team. I can’t wait, “Armstrong said.” We have a lot of the same players as last year and we have all worked hard to improve. “
“I’m very excited. I think we’ll have a fun season,” Deery said. “We are coming in as champions of state, so we have a lot to do.”