The Class 2A No. 11 ranked Wilton volleyball team may have shocked the state last week with a 3-1 win over No. 1 ranked Grundy Center in Regional final action at Cedar Rapids Xavier Oct. 30. The Beavers (36-4) went in with a “no pressure” mentality and defeated a Grundy Center (39-4) team that had been to state for two consecutive seasons with most of the lineup returning.
Grundy Center had also only lost to three Class 5A schools all season. Wilton was undeterred and secured the upset to qualify for state for the fourth time in school history.
Wilton entered the state tournament in Cedar Rapids Nov. 7-9 as the No. 8 seed in Class 2A. The Beavers faced top seed Dyersville Beckman in the quarterfinals Nov. 7. Results were not available by press time.
Wilton head coach Brenda Grunder has coached the Beavers for 33 years, beginning in 1981 and taking a break from 2004-2010.
Wilton qualified for the state tournament in 1993, 2003 and 2004. Grunder coached each of the last three teams and her daughter Kayla, who now serves as a volunteer assistant on the Wilton staff, played on the last two state teams.
1993: Wilton qualifies for first time
Led by a senior quartet of Nicki Bradley, Debbie Marolf, Sara Nichols and April Sperstad, the 1993 Wilton volleyball team qualified for the state tournament for the first time in school history.
Grunder was in her 13th season as head coach of the Wilton program then, at a time when the Beavers played in the Eastern Iowa Hawkeye Conference (EIHC) and games were played to 15 (win by two) and teams had to serve for points.
The Beavers were 28-2-3 entering the state tournament and defeated fellow EIHC foe and No. 3 ranked Mount Vernon in the Regional final 15-9, 15-12, 15-2 — avenging an earlier season loss. The match was played at Wilton due to Mount Vernon also hosting playoff football the night of the match.
At the state tournament the Beavers, ranked 11th, were defeated in the opening round by Rockwell City-Lytton 15-3, 15-11, 15-13. The Beavers were down 13-4 in game two before making a comeback and were up 13-11 in set three before falling victim to a sweep.
Wilton ended the year 28-3-3 and the 1993-1994 girls went on to have the most successful year in the school’s history, qualifying individuals to state in cross country and track, and making state in volleyball and softball, and making the state finals in basketball.
2003 Beavers back to state
Grunder’s 2003 Wilton team featured sisters Ashley and Peggy Riessen and her daughter Kayla Grunder, a do-it all player who served as the team’s setter. Other key contributors included Tara LaMaack, Lyndsey Lyon, Melissa Watkins-Schoeing, Brittney Crane, Rachel Ingstad and Laura Sass.
The Beavers tied for an EIHC title that season, beating previously unbeaten Regina to do it.
Wilton, ranked No. 5 in Class 2A, defeated Mount Vernon in the Regional semifinals after being down 0-2. The Beavers won 17-25, 17-25, 25-19, 25-22, 15-12.
In the Regional finals, Wilton defeated Dyersville Beckman on a neutral court in Marion 25-22, 24-26, 26-24, 25-22.
The Beavers entered the state tournament ranked fifth with a record of 29-5 and were defeated in the quarterfinals by No. 6 ranked Aplington Parkersburg 25-22, 25-14, 25-15 to finish with an overall record of 29-6 in Grunder’s 23rd year at the helm.
Five of Wilton’s six losses that season came to teams that qualified for the state tournament.
2004 Beavers get back, win game
After qualifying for state in 2003, the 2004 Beavers won another EIHC title. Featuring players such as Kayla Grunder, Peggy Riessen, Laura Sass, Tara LaMaack, Nicole Duncan and Steph Miene, Wilton finished the regular season 31-3 and ranked third in the state.
In the Regional final, the Beavers defeated 10th ranked Regina (32-5) at Muscatine in a 5-set thriller 18-25, 25-17, 25-17, 23-25, 15-13.
In the 2A state tournament, Wilton got its first ever state win in the quarterfinals over No. 9 ranked Underwood 25-18, 25-15, 25-14.
In the semifinals, the Beavers were defeated by Western Christian 25-20, 25-20, 25-16. Western Christian was the defending 3-time state champions and went on to win its fourth straight state title that season with a finals win over Aplington Parkersburg.
Wilton finished with an overall record of 33-4. The 33 wins were a school record and all four of the losses were to teams that qualified for state.