CEDAR RAPIDS - The drive from the Iowa Central campus to Cedar Rapids is one the Triton volleyball team has made countless times over.
This one, though, has a little more excitement to it.
Iowa Central begins play here Tuesday as the No. 3 seed in the NJCAA Div. II Volleyball Championship, which takes place from the Alliant Energy Powerhouse Arena.
The Tritons (19-3 overall) open play with Carl Sandburg (10-8) at 9 a.m. in the first match of the three-day tournament. A win moves Iowa Central into the quarterfinals against either Catawba Valley or North Platte, which will be played Tuesday night at 5:30 p.m.
"Our girls are fired up," Iowa Central head coach Sara Horn said. "They've really been getting after it in practice. This is already a very competitive group, but they have been out for blood during 2-on-2 games and 6-on-6 drills. I think that's been the biggest difference (since winning regionals) is just how competitive they have been."
The Tritons secured their spot at nationals by capturing the Region XI-A Tournament title with a four-set victory over Hawkeye. They were also crowned the ICCAC Div. II regular season champions for a third consecutive season, besting fellow Top-10 ranked programs Kirkwood, Des Moines Area and Hawkeye.
Along with Iowa Central, Kirkwood also advanced as one of 16 teams for nationals.
"I think playing this tournament here in Iowa is a huge advantage for us," Horn said. "We should be a big crowd with a lot of support from the parents. We've done this trip twice already this year and we don't lose a day of practice. I really like it and just feel like it will be great for our girls."
Carl Sandburg advanced by winning the Midwest B District Championship over Triton.
"We've played them in some tough matches at our home tournament," Horn said. "They are a fiery team that really plays with a lot of energy. We've talked to the girls about just doing what we've done all year and playing our game."
Illinois Central received the No. 1 overall seed with Parkland No. 2. Kirkwood is on the opposite side of Iowa Central as the No. 5 seed.
Scottsdale won the 2019 title with a five-set victory over Parkland. The Tritons are looking to become the first ICCAC program to win a Div. II title since Kirkwood in 2003. Iowa Western captured the Div. I crown in 2006.
-By Dana Becker