STANTON, Iowa — The competitive light still burned in Tracy Malcom.
The former Tracy Cochran graduated from Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson in 1993 and Peru State in 1997, excelling in volleyball at both schools. She coached the junior high team at Fremont-Mills in 1997 and 1998.
Then life got in the way. She had four kids with husband Alex. She thought her coaching career was over.
“I'd watch it on TV, and I'd keep track of things in the paper,” she said. “In the back of my mind, it was always a dream of mine, because I'd go to the games and watch the girls and know I'd want to be a part of that.”
Malcom is back on the court, and she wouldn't want to be anywhere else. Class 1-A No. 15 Fremont-Mills swept Nishnabotna 25-12, 25-22, 25-19 in a Corner Conference tournament semifinal Tuesday at Stanton High School.
The Knights (17-3), also rated eighth in western Iowa by The World-Herald, will meet nine-time defending champion Stanton (30-5) in Thursday's 7:30 p.m. final at Farragut. The Viqueens, who swept Essex in the other semifinal, are rated seventh in the state in 1-A and sixth in western Iowa.
Malcom wasn't content with keeping the status quo in the Knight volleyball program. She had her own specific set of rules and regulations.
“We can't yawn at practice,” junior Taryn Williams said. “We do a lot more conditioning.”
Malcom handed out two sheets of paper to her players, detailing the new expectations.
“It went from how you will stand when the national anthem is sung to how you will load the bus to how you will thank the bus driver,” she said. “These are a good group of young ladies, and a lot of these lessons we try to teach them now are lifelong lessons they're going to take when they're long gone out of here.”
On Tuesday, the second-seeded Knights taught a lesson or two on the court. The Knights' athletic front line slammed 37 kills in three sets, led by Taryn Williams (13) and Macy Williams (11), a pair of 5-foot-8 juniors who aren't related.
“We were pumped up tonight, because these girls wanted so bad to be in the finals Thursday night,” Malcom said. “I was pleased with everything they did tonight.”
Sixth-seeded Nishnabotna, which rallied from a two-set deficit Monday to stun third-seeded Sidney, threatened to even the match in the second set as junior Anne Marie-Maher swatted five kills. The Blue Devils drew within 23-22 in the second set after a Maryn Phillips kill and a Knight error. But senior Madison Powers responded with a kill and Nishnbotna made an error to give Fremont-Mills a two-set lead.
In the third set, Christa McCall's ace for Nishnabotna tied it at 16. But Fremont-Mills ran off eight of the next nine points and soon closed it out.
The Knights began lifting and running with their new coach in mid-July. They haven't shied away from the hard work.
“I said, 'If you want to be the best, then you've got to train like the best,”' Malcom said. “Not one of them has ever slacked. They want it.”
Nishnabotna (9-12).............................12 22 19
Fremont-Mills (17-3)............................25 25 25
N (kills-aces-blocks): Kennedy Hughes 5-1-0, Nickole Schwartz 0-0-0, Elayna Mincer 2-1-0, Maryn Phillips 3-0-0, Sam Moran 1-0-0, Anne-Marie Maher 7-1-0, Christa McCall 5-4-0, Jacy Hendrickson 0-1-0.
FM: Taryn Williams 13-2-0, Taryn Hansen 2-3-0, Madison Powers 7-1-1, Macy Williams 11-0-1, Delaney Langfelt 0-1-0, Andrea McClary 4-0-1, Sydney Esary 0-0-0.
Set assists: N, Moran 13, Mincer 3. FM, Langfelt 31.
Stanton 3, Essex 0
It's a numerologist's dream.
On Thursday — 10/10 — Stanton will attempt to win its 10th consecutive Corner Conference tournament title.
Stanton coach Jody Druivenga said it's not necessary to bring that up this week. Everyone knows.
“We don't talk ahead too much,” she said. “They know that Thursday night's a big night for them. It's very important that they keep their feet on the ground and play each and every night like it might be their last one.”
The Viqueens had little trouble against a fifth-seed Essex club that had knocked off fourth-seeded East Mills on Monday. Stanton rolled in the first set, then scored seven straight to turn an 8-8 game into a 15-8 advantage in the second. Junior Heidi Vanderholm had five straight kills to start that run, turning in one of her best outings, Druivenga said.
Senior all-stater Carmen Subbert, second in 1-A in total kills, again wowed the crowd at times with her ability to terminate despite being listed at 5-7. She had a match-high 13 kills, and powerful senior middle Erin DeKay added eight.
Without two starters on Saturday, Stanton beat 3-A Glenwood and 2-A Tri-Center among others, before falling to 3-A No. 5 Red Oak 28-26, 25-15 in the finals of the Tri-Center tournament.
“For us to compete like we did, I was thrilled to death,” Druivenga said.
Senior Macy Elwood handed out 16 assists on Tuesday. She said the Viqueens are anticipating a hard-fought match on Thursday.
“We know they want it. We've heard it already,” she said. “We just have to pass the ball. If we pass the ball, we'll be fine.”
Essex (8-13) ................................ 7 16 17
Stanton (30-5) .............................25 25 25
E (kills-aces-blocks): Regan Burns 2-4-0, Seana Perkins 0-0-0, Skylar Ross 0-2-0, Kymberly Graham 1-0-2, Jescenia Polsley 3-0-1, Andrea Allen 0-0-0, Amber Ohnmacht 3-0-1.
S: Avery Taylor 1-0-1, Ally Focht 0-0-0, Heidi Vanderholm 6-2-0, Macy Elwood 3-2-0, Moriah Kammerer 1-1-0, Bailey Foote 0-0-0, Devin Druivenga 0-0-0, Haley Weis 3-7-2, Madison Wookey 0-0-0, Logan Wagg 0-0-0, Chelsea Weis 0-0-0, Carmen Subbert 13-0-1, Erin DeKay 8-0-1, Ashley Palmquist 0-0-0.
Set assists: E, Perkins 7. S, Elwood 16, Wagg 3, Focht 3, Taylor 2, Kammerer 2, DeKay 1.