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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 20, 2017

Flurry of returners headline SEC volleyball

Aug 23, 2017
MPN file photo Kalynn Batey chases down the ball during the Panthers’ home tournament in 2016.

By Andy Krutsinger, Mt. Pleasant News

 

Volleyball season is just getting underway and the Southeast Conference teams are gearing up for their season openers this week.

With conference games starting on Tuesday, Aug. 29, it’s time to look ahead at what is in store for the five SEC squads this season. First, let’s look back at how the league faired in 2016.

Ft. Madison and Fairfield came in as favorites in 2016, and they didn’t disappoint, finishing first and second in the league for the third straight year. It was the Bloodhounds who took home the SEC crown, going 8-0 with a 3-1 home win over the Trojans and a 3-0 win in Fairfield.

Fairfield finished 6-2 in the league, sweeping every SEC team not named Ft. Madison. Mt. Pleasant did take down Fairfield twice in tournament games but couldn’t quite upend the Trojans in matches that counted towards the conference standings.

The Panthers went 4-4 in the SEC, sweeping Ft. Madison and Keokuk. The Demons and Chiefs finished in a tie for fourth place, at 1-7.

There will be plenty of familiar faces returning to the league this year offensively. Eight of the 10 leading hitters from last season will return to school this fall.

The two hitters lost from the top 10 kills list are Fairfield’s Shelby Heston and Mt. Pleasant’s Abbie Liechty. Heston was second in kills last season with 209 on the year and Liechty was eighth among conference hitters with 124.

Ft. Madison will return their four top hitters, including Amber Dilsaver who finished with an astounding 387 kills last year. Courtney Woodley (185 kills), Kaeli Hutson (126 kills) and McKenna Feseke (99 kills) will also be back on the court this season.

Fairfield will be led by Kara Jeffrey (207 kills) and Alison Godwin (206 kills) who will each be entering their junior year.

Mt. Pleasant’s Mikayla Beason was sixth in kills among SEC hitters with 129. She will lead an attack that also includes teammate Jackie Fraise (115 kills).

Washington and Keokuk will both continue to look for offensive weapons to break out in 2017. Junior Isabel Bailey (78 kills) looks to lead the Demon offense and Keokuk sophomore Isabel Vandenberg (56 kills) aims to add to an impressive freshman season in 2016.

All five SEC teams will return their leading setter this season and all five athletes will be going into their senior year. Ft. Madison’s Leigh Johnson had 802 assists in 2016. Ashlee Menke of Mt. Pleasant had 415 and Ashtyn Drish of Fairfield had 409 to make up the top three. Megan Mitchell had 243 assists for Washington in 2016. Jakala Hall lead Keokuk with 85.

Fairfield will return two of the top three returning diggers in the conference, despite the loss of Kaylee Watson (451 digs). Danae Drish was second among SEC diggers in 2016 with 359, and A. Drish was fourth with 256.

Ft. Madison’s Josie Pumphrey will be entering her junior year after having 304 digs in 2016. Mt. Pleasant senior Dani Broeker had 254 digs last season. Keokuk senior Michaela Davis (223 digs) and Washington senior Kylee Porter (144 digs) each led their respective teams last season.

Mt. Pleasant will have the most to make up for in up-front defense. They lost their three top blockers from last season, including Liechty, who was third in the SEC with 56 blocks last year. Dilsaver had 79 blocks last year for Ft. Madison and Godwin had 57 for Fairfield.

Bailey led the Demons in 2016 with 23 blocks. Keokuk struggled to block kill attempts last season, but their leading returner is Hall, who had eight.

Although non-conference games start this week, SEC play is less than one week away. On Tuesday, Aug. 29, Mt. Pleasant will host Ft. Madison and Keokuk will host Fairfield. Both of those games are set for 7:30 p.m.

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