Five players, one coach represent county in All-GTNS volleyball
It was a very competitive 2016 season for volleyball in southeast Iowa. From the three big schools battling for position in the SEC to a talented small school field, the year made for some great games and exciting weekend tournaments.
Nobody from the Golden Triangle area was able to advance to the state tournament in Cedar Rapids, but a big talent pool made for great All-GTNS teams for both the big schools and the small schools.
Coach Diana Drish, Fairfield: Fairfield head coach Diana Drish had big shoes to fill coming into the season. She was replacing 30-year veteran Nancy Diers, who led her team to a staggering record of 33-4 in her final campaign. And yet, Drish was very much up to the task as she kept the Trojans on their winning ways.
The Trojans’ conference record of 6-2 was second best in the Southeast Conference, their only two losses coming to the eventual conference champions, Ft. Madison. Fairfield finished nine games above .500, with an overall record of 21-12, and with Drish at the helm, fans can expect the Trojans to give the Bloodhounds a run for first place next year.
Captain Shelby Heston, Fairfield senior: Shelby Heston has been a swatter extraordinaire ever since she stepped into the gymnasium at Fairfield High School. As a junior, Heston smacked 346 kills, 50 more than the next best hitter in the conference.
In her senior season, Heston shared the hitting duties more equitably with her teammates but still led the Trojans in kills with 209. Her 37 blocks were also fifth most in the conference.
Kaylee Watson, Fairfield senior: Another key upperclassman in the Trojans’ arsenal was senior Kaylee Watson, who stepped up wherever she was needed.
Her 451 digs led the conference, and her 97.7 serving percentage on 299-306 serves was the highest in the conference among players with at least 30 serves. She led her team in aces with 37, and pitched in 39 assists.
Abbie Liechty, Mt. Pleasant senior: Abbie Liechty was one of the senior leaders that helped turn Mt. Pleasant into a real contender in 2016.
She finished eighth in the conference in kills, with 119, and added 23 kills, which was seventh in the SEC.
But it was her defensive performance in 2016 that made her stick out over the rest of Mt. Pleasant’s hitters. She had 93 digs on the year and finished third in the SEC in blocks, with 56.
Olivia Postl, Washington senior: Postl was one of three seniors who helped the Washington volleyball program this season, and her second-team All-Conference honors helped give her the edge on the All-GTNS team.
The Demons transitioned with a new head coach this season, and Postl’s steady presence on the inside was a big part of the team’s positive approach to the year.
Postl finished the season with a team-high 97 kills, while tying for the team lead with 15 aces. Postl finished the year with 19 total blocks as well.
Her presence, as well as the other two talented seniors, Alexis Turner and Jessie Buchholz, will be missed next season for the Demons, as the Demons look to continue the rebuilding process.
Ashlee Menke, Mt. Pleasant junior: The setter position is an important piece on a good team, and there weren’t many in the area better than Ashlee Menke.
Menke finished third in the SEC, with 399 assists and had 57 digs on the year.
The junior also had a big year serving the ball, finishing with a .914 serve efficiency and 27 aces.
Kara Jeffrey and Alison Godwin, Fairfield sophomores: Heston and a pair of sophomores, Kara Jeffrey and Alison Godwin, comprised Fairfield’s three-pronged attack at the net. Opposing defenses could only guess where the spike would come from as each girl totaled at least 200 kills on 500 attempts.
Jeffrey was second on the team and third in the conference in kills with 207. She compiled a service mark of 224-242 (93 percent), to complement 17 aces and 211 assists. Godwin was not only an offensive threat, finishing with 206 kills, but a staunch defender, too, as she blocked 57 shots for second place in the conference.
Coach Maureen Heath, New London: One year after a tough five-set loss in the regional final, Coach Maureen Heath had the New London volleyball team right back in contention in 2016.
Despite having just one senior on the squad, Heath was able to lead the young Tiger team to a 28-10 record and had them ranked in the top 15 for most of the year.
Although their postseason run came up short in the regional semis, New London positioned itself to be a big time threat in 2017.
Captain Breanna Mettler, New London junior: It was a tight race for All-GTNS captain this year, but New London’s Brianna Mettler snatched the spot with her fantastic play at the net.
Mettler was third in the SEISC South Division with 384 kills. She co-led the conference with 58 aces and finished the year with 19 blocks.
The leader of the Tiger offense looks to be one of the most feared hitters in the area once again next season.
Halle Kissell, WACO senior: WACO’s Halle Kissell was the ultimate utility player for the Warriors in 2016.
Kissell led the team in almost every category, topping the Warriors in assists (391), aces (36) and blocks (36) while still finishing tied for second on the team in kills (116) and third in digs (205).
Her wide variety of skills make her an impossible player to replace and the Warriors will need multiple players to step up and fill her role in 2017.
Jaedynn Evans, Mid-Prairie sophomore: Jaedynn Evans was one of the hardest-hitting volleyball athletes in southeast Iowa as a freshman, and that trend continued into her sophomore season.
Evans was a selection on the River Valley Conference’s Elite Team (a combination of the North and South divisions), in large part to her versatile skill set.
To go with crushing 314 kills on the season (4.62 per set), the Golden Hawk sophomore finished the year tied for the team lead with 29 blocks, second on the team with 314 digs, while claiming 16 aces.
Carson McSorely, New London junior: When it comes to digging the ball, you can’t get much better than New London libero Carson McSorely.
The junior was the anchor of the Tiger defense once again, leading the conference and finishing second in the entire state, with 743 digs.
Combine her defensive skills with a .968 serve efficiency and 47 aces and you get one of the few All-GTNS locks in 2016.
Kelsey Hora, Highland senior: Kelsey Hora is a regular on each sport’s All-GTNS team, and her efforts on the volleyball court are no different this season.
Hora led the 22-win Huskies with 335 digs on the season, while also finishing fourth on the team in kills with 80. She also served at a clip of .973 on the season, only missing 11 of her 408 serving attempts on the season, claiming a team-best 38 aces for her squad.
Her efforts helped her earn a first-team SEISC selection as a defensive specialist in her final volleyball season.
Hora will be a senior leader for the rest of her high school career in basketball, track and softball, as her name should be very familiar in the paper.
Maci Gambell, Pekin junior: Opposing teams feared Pekin’s Maci Gambell both at the net and from the service line.
Gambell led the Panthers in kills with 146, and was the team’s top server by percentage and number of aces.
The Pekin junior served a heavy ball that was hard to return as her 56 aces were fourth most in the Southeast Iowa Superconference-North division. She went 257-280 (92 percent) from the service line and was second on the team in digs with 234.
Shania Boyd, Columbus senior: Earning a first-team selection to the All-SEISC North Division team, Shania Boyd used her abilities to play her way onto the All-GTNS team in 2016.
The Columbus senior finished her volleyball career with 216 kills in her final campaign, leading the team with 35 aces and finishing second on the team with 308 digs.
Boyd, who also earned an All-GTNS basketball spot last year as a junior, will be a key departure from the Wildcat volleyball team, but she will look to continue her athletic success as a big piece of the Wildcat basketball team.
The 2016 All-GTNS volleyball teams were selected by Aaron Viner of the Washington Evening Journal, Andy Hallman of the Fairfield Ledger and Andy Krutsinger of the Mt. Pleasant News.