Golden Hawks celebrate a smashing, historic win

By Paul D. Bowker
Posted 9/17/23


The words exploded out of a Mid-Prairie team huddle from Golden Hawks volleyball coach Sherry Evans.

“Play to win!”

“Don’t play not to lose!”

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Golden Hawks celebrate a smashing, historic win



The words exploded out of a Mid-Prairie team huddle from Golden Hawks volleyball coach Sherry Evans.

“Play to win!”

“Don’t play not to lose!”

Minutes later, on a historic volleyball night at Mid-Prairie on Sept. 7, the Golden Hawks finished off the kind of victory not seen since … well … when some of these Golden Hawks were in diapers.

When the 25th point in the fourth game arrived to give Mid-Prairie its first win in volleyball against Class 3A power West Liberty in 14 years, the Golden Hawks jumped into a mass celebration on the court.

Dakota Mitchell, a junior who is one of the best libero players in the state, hugged junior teammate Lanee Duwa.

Jovi Evans and Callie Huber and Harper Pacha and every other Golden Hawk joined in another team huddle to celebrate a victory that hadn’t happened since 2009. Five days after that Mid-Prairie win in September 2009, West Liberty began a 27-match win streak against the Golden Hawks that didn’t end until last Thursday.


In all that time, the Golden Hawks couldn’t even win one game against the Comets until last year, a 3-1 defeat on Mid-Prairie’s home court.

This victory, Evans said afterward, is where the team has wanted to go “for a long time.” It is a defining win, not just because of that 27-match streak but because West Liberty was ranked No. 14 in Class 3A and is one of the powerful teams in a powerful River Valley Conference.

The Comets shut out the Golden Hawks to end Mid-Prairie’s season in 2021.

They did the same in 2019.

The rivalry has touched more than volleyball. A two-point Mid-Prairie win over West Liberty in girls basketball in 2022 broke a seven-game losing streak against the Comets. A 5-0 softball win over West Liberty last June broke a 15-game streak.

And that’s why the Sept. 7 celebration inside a packed gymnasium rivaled those of the boys basketball team’s run toward an unbeaten conference championship in 2022.

When the Golden Hawks lost the first game by a 25-23 score, following two straight points by the Comets, the ghosts of history were positioned to turn a 27-match streak into 28. But the Golden Hawks answered with wins in the next three games by scores of 25-18, 25-19, 25-21.

Mitchell, who is ranked fourth in Class 3A in defensive digs, led Mid-Prairie with a match-high 24 digs. Jovi Evans, a sophomore, had a match-high 16 kills. Callie Huber, a junior, had a match-high 5 blocks. Pacha and Avery Helmuth, both sophomores, had 4 service aces.

“We’re pushing harder, moving forward,” Mitchell said.

And still realizing the job isn’t done.

“We’ve got to keep working on the little, little things,” Evans said.

Clearly, this victory placed a target on Mid-Prairie’s back. Once the hunter and an underdog, the Golden Hawks, ranked No. 10 in 3A, are now one of five River Conference teams either in the Class 3A and 2A Top 15 rankings or knocking on the door. Among them is Iowa City Regina, ranked No. 13 in 2A.

“We’re starting to be able to handle that pressure,” said Mitchell, a standout club player who is being recruited nationally and is expected to announce her college choice this fall.

News columnist Paul Bowker can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @bowkerpaul

Mid-Prairie, volleyball