TIPTON, Iowa — Kamryn Chapman has been congratulated in the past week by community members she does not recognize.

Coach Amy Calonder has had people in town offer to pay for her meals.

Students have created and hung posters on the middle school gym wall celebrating its accomplishment.

There is palpable excitement in Tipton, a town of about 3,200, over its volleyball program — and for good reason.

For the first time in program history, the Tigers will participate in the state tournament at 10 a.m. Wednesday against sixth-ranked Osage in a Class 3A quarterfinal at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.

"The buzz in the community is insane," Calonder said. "You walk down the street, people are saying, 'Great win. Great job.' I went to the doctor (last week) and they're like, 'We've got to get you better before Wednesday.'"

It already has been a memorable season for No. 8 Tipton (32-6).

Champion of the River Valley Conference South Division, the Tigers already have established a single-season record for wins eclipsing a mark that stood for 31 years.

Tipton has not dropped a set in three postseason matches.

Success has increased interest around school and in town.

"There are some people who have never watched us play a volleyball match that are excited to come out and see us play," said Chapman, a 6-foot sophomore middle. "Everybody in town knows about us now."

Tipton took a giant step last season, compiling a 25-10 record and reaching the regional semifinals.

With all but one girl in the rotation returning from that squad, the Tigers were poised for something bigger this fall.

"We've all been really good friends since sixth grade, some of us have played on teams together since fifth grade," junior setter Amanda Smith said. "That has helped us in the long run."

Calonder, in her 15th season, knew the talent was in place two years ago. What she and her coaching staff have had to emphasize is improving the culture and belief system.

Last year, Calonder did a book study with her team each day. Recommended by Iowa volleyball coach Bond Shymasnky and several coaches at a clinic, Calonder read "Chop Wood Carry Water" by Joshua Metcalf, a book that details the process of becoming great.

"We called it story time," Calonder said. "I knew as a coach, we had the skills but what they lacked was that culture piece."

It has evolved this season. She has read excerpts of mental toughness books to her team before big matches.

"Culture is always mentioned," Calonder explained. "If you make a mistake, don't look down at the floor. There is nothing down there. Look up, own it and move on from it.

"They've done a really good job of that, not dwelling on those things. This team has been so level-headed."

Getting to the state tournament was Tipton's primary objective this season. With that accomplishment achieved, the Tigers spent last week resetting their goals.

"Our goal was state and we hadn't ever thought past state," sophomore Sommer Daniel said. "Now that we're here, it is huge. We almost have more drive that we made it. We know we're capable of more.

"We want to play the best volleyball we've ever played at state."

Daniel is the team's catalyst. The 5-foot-9 setter and hitter averages a team-high 4.07 kills, 4.22 assists and 2.58 digs per set along with a team-high 58 service aces.

Smith has more than 1,500 career assists in Tipton's 6-2 attack. Junior Blake Ehler averages more than two kills per set, and Chapman has a team-high 63 blocks.

In the postseason, Tipton has posted sweeps over Williamsburg, Central Lee and Davis County.

"We haven't played our best volleyball," Ehler said. "We haven't reached our peak yet."

The competition ratchets up against Osage, which returns six starters from last year's state appearance and all its losses are to state-ranked foes.

"We know it's going to be loud, it's going to be crazy," Ehler said. "We have to settle in and play our game. We can't worry about everything else.

"There is a sense of urgency. We want to win now and do it again next year, a possible repeat."

Regardless of what transpires, Daniel said the experience should position Tipton well for next season.

The Tigers will have virtually their entire team back.

"I'm sure there will be a little bit of a culture shock at first, but this is going to be a fun experience for us to soak up," Smith said. "It'll make us come back even stronger next year."

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