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CEDAR RAPIDS — They are quite the tandem, the pulse of Tipton’s volleyball program.

Sommer Daniel and Amanda Smith facilitate the Tigers’ offense. They are athletic, versatile and savvy.

And they have Tipton on the verge of the program’s first state championship.

Daniel and Smith teamed for 39 kills, 48 assists and 25 digs as Class 3A second-ranked Tipton downed Mount Vernon 25-19, 23-25, 25-21, 25-20 in a semifinal Thursday afternoon at the U.S. Cellular Center.

“We aren’t done,” Daniel said. “We’ve got one more match to win. Our goal always has been to win the whole thing. We finally have the opportunity to do something for the first time in school history.

“It is huge.”

The last hurdle is top-ranked Carroll Kuemper (45-1) in Friday’s title match at 2:30 p.m. Kuemper edged Osage in five sets to set up a showdown between schools ranked 1-2 since the preseason rankings in mid-August.

Neither school has won a state volleyball championship.

“It is going to be a dogfight,” Smith said. “We’ll have to be at the top of our game because they’re going to be at the top of theirs.”

Tipton (39-3) was more in sync than it was in its four-set quarterfinal victory over New Hampton on Wednesday.

The Tigers swung at a .315 clip and had five hitters with at least five kills. As Daniel pointed out afterward, Tipton was “lights-out” in serve receive.

“We played a lot better,” Tipton coach Amy Calonder said. “I felt our offense was there from the start. There was just a sense of calm among them, and that carried over to the floor.”

Daniel and Smith were at the center of it.

The 5-foot-9 Daniel, a Utah recruit, had 27 kills, 17 assists and six digs. She has 51 kills in two matches at the state tournament.

Smith registered 12 kills, 31 assists and 19 digs.

“They really hold the team together,” middle Kamryn Chapman said. “They’re both so versatile and can do everything. You want setters to be the leaders of the team, and they do it so well.”

Daniel displayed the full arsenal of shots — tips, rolls, power and dump sets.

“She sees the court so well and what’s happening on the other side of the net,” Calonder said. “That’s a lot of volleyball experience.”

Daniel said beach volleyball has aided her instincts and shot making.

“Beach has really helped me see what’s open on the court,” Daniel said. “You can’t swing as hard in beach most of the time, so you have to rely on being smart and placing it well. That has contributed a ton to how I play today.”

Smith, on the other hand, was assertive. 

“We definitely work really, really well together,” Smith said. “We’re constantly giving each other feedback, and it works really well for our team.”

Just like Wednesday, Tipton dropped the second set. It used a 6-2 run in the third set to seize control.

In set four, the Tigers had an eight-point flurry early, built an 18-8 cushion and held on for their 12th consecutive win.

Chapman finished with 10 kills, and Blake Ehler chipped in eight. Tipton had a 65-44 advantage in kills.

“We were getting our feet underneath us yesterday, but we adapted to the environment and knew what to expect today,” Smith said. “We’ve had a goal in mind and that was to get to (Friday).”

Tipton watched last year’s state final from the stands.

“We sat there and were like, ‘This should be us next year,’” Smith said. “This is happening next year.”

The Tigers will be on the court today, seeking to win the school's second state championship of the fall season. Tipton claimed a boys state cross country title last month. 

“We are ready to go,” Chapman said. “A lot of teams would think they’re not supposed to win this one facing No. 1, but we’ve been talking about this all season. We’re all pretty confident that we can get it done.”


Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.