Volleyball is a family affair for Iola.
The Bulldogs (38-2) look to win their third straight Class 2A state volleyball tournament with two sets of sisters helping lead the way.
Sophomore middle blocker Tatum Nevill and her twin sister, outside hitter Taylor Nevill, make up the attack. Setter Maggie Webb is one of Iola’s senior leaders, while her sister, sophomore Emmy Webb, also is in the starting rotation.
“From time to time, we have that sisterly tension,” Iola head coach Jamie McDougald said. “But they’re really good kids, and it’s just a good thing.”
But McDougald said the sisterhood goes beyond blood.
“A lot of these kids have been together since kindergarten,” she said. “The seniors on the team and the managers have been friends since they were little bitty kids.”
Iola will also face a familiar opponent at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Garland’s Curtis Culwell Center. The Bulldogs faced Burton (31-11) in August, beating the Panthers 25-13, 25-15, 25-12, 25-16.
“It was a very competitive match when we played,” McDougald said. “They’ve improved a lot, and so have we. It’ going to be a very good match.”
Though the Bulldogs have plenty of veterans, McDougald has preached that it’s a new year. That helps relieve some of the pressure to three-peat, though she thinks being familiar with the state tournament is an asset.
“They know what to expect,” McDougald said. “We have a few newbies, but hopefully the older ones will show them the way.”
That group includes the elder Webb and fellow seniors Allie Johnson and Jessika Fairbanks, who line up at libero and middle blocker. Junior Emily Bowman joins them and the Webb and Nevill sisters in the starting rotation.
Along with solid defense and serving, McDougald is keeping an eye on sophomore Kyndal Coufal, who led Burton with 20 digs and 20 kills in its regional final win over Snook.
McDougald is focusing on ball control and said her group has been receptive.
“At this point in the season, we’re going to face some big hitters, and they’re going to get their points,” she said. “On top of the points they earn, we’re not giving away any unforced errors.”
A third straight title may seem within striking distance, but she wants her team to focus on one game at a time. If Iola beats Burton, it would face the winner of Crawford and Archer City at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday. Iola beat Archer City 25-20, 25-21, 25-27, 28-26 to win last year’s title.
“That’s what we’ve been preaching all year, it’s one game at a time,” McDougald said. “We’ve been fortunate to get this far … it’s only two games away, but those are two good teams standing in our way.”