Fairfield's Howard captains All-GTNS volleyball team
Despite falling short of a trip to Des Moines, many Golden Triangle News Service volleyball teams made a decent postseason run this year, including two that played in their respective regional finals.
Class 1A Winfield-Mount Union competed in the regional championship for the first time since 1997, and Class 4A Fairfield came within one game of the state tournament for the second year in a row, this time falling to Cedar Rapids Xavier in the regional final.
The Trojans’ season record and playoff run, however, earned coach Nancy Diers the nod as All-GTNS Large School Volleyball Coach of the Year.
While the players continue to change, the results stay the same for the Diers-led Trojan volleyball team, which retained its hold on the Southeast Conference title in 2012. For her part, the 27-year head coach steered the Trojans to a perfect 8-0 mark in the Southeast Conference and 27-8 record overall. The perfect record in conference play handed Fairfield its sixth conference banner in the past seven years, and the 2012 team also rolled to two tournament titles.
A trio of instrumental seniors led the SEC champs, but perhaps no one was more impressive than Sydney Howard, this season’s All-GTNS Large School Captain. Howard was a leader both offensively and defensively, ending up with 206 spikes and the team’s highest kill efficiency, plus 353 digs from the back row. The harefooted senior surprised even her own coaching staff with how well she played, garnering such superlatives as “biggest spark” and “most consistent.” She earned Co-SEC Player of the Year honors, as voted on by the league’s coaches, and she won the Coaches Award at the Trojans’ season-ending banquet.
Fairfield senior Sidney Baumann led her team in few categories this season, yet her contributions went far beyond the stat book. Baumann was asked to play nearly every position this fall and did so well, finishing first on the team in serve reception (77 percent), second in kills (219), and fourth in digs (279) and assists (78). The “wearer of many hats” also was named the team’s Most Valuable Player, voted on by her teammates, and makes her second straight appearance on the All-GTNS team.
With the departure of star hitter Tori Ogden last year, right-side hitter Erin Thompson filled an important hole as Fairfield’s most powerful offensive weapon this fall. Thompson, a senior lefty, came through with a team-leading 223 kills and 62 ace serves. She also stepped into the role of backup setter midseason and finished with 93 assists. Thompson makes her first appearance on the All-GTNS team, but she’s been an important piece of the Trojans’ puzzle for a few years. She has made appearances on the All-SEC first team the past two seasons and most recently won her team’s Offensive Player Award.
Mount Pleasant’s Elinor Krieger-Coble, who shared Co-SEC Player of the Year honors with Howard, returned to the court to lead her team to a 16-16 record and a second-place SEC finish. Krieger-Coble missed last season with an injury, but the outside hitter proved just as key to Mount Pleasant’s success as she was before she left. Part of a menacing front row, Krieger-Coble — who stands 6 feet tall — topped the Panthers and tied for third in the SEC with 223 kills this year. Her serving was as fierce as her hitting, evidenced by 41 aces, the second-highest total in the conference. Krieger-Coble also put up 32 blocks this season.
Another Mount Pleasant 6-footer, sophomore Kelsi Phipps, makes her first appearance on the All-GTNS team. After transitioning from outside to middle hitter this season, Phipps was second in the conference with 80 blocks — behind only teammate Taryne Shull. Phipps was also eighth in the conference and second on her team with 186 kills, and led the Panthers with a .330 kill efficiency. Her efforts landed her first team all-conference honors, the only sophomore to make the cut.
Rounding out the All-GTNS large schools volleyball team is Washington senior Lauren Kimball. The Demons’ setter led the SEC — and ranked 19th in Class 4A — with 581 assists this season. The senior was one of the Demons’ most dependable servers, making good on 94.8 percent of her serves this season with 24 aces. She also totaled 141 digs and tipped 30 kills over the net as she earned first team all-conference honors.
Like Fairfield, W-MU fell just short of a state tournament berth this season, but their efforts landed them the coach and captain on this season’s All-GTNS small schools volleyball team. The Wolves were knocked out of the Class 1A regional tournament by No. 2 Holy Trinity, but not before they became only the third volleyball team in W-MU history to make it as far as the regional finals.
The All-GTNS Small School Volleyball Coach of the Year, Dave Pieart, led the Wolves to a overall season record of 28-8, as well as an 8-1 record in the SEISC North — taking second to Class 3A top-ranked Mediapolis. He then navigated his team through a postseason that included a five-set regional quarterfinal match against rival New London, a team that had won two regular-season sets against the Wolves. Pieart was an assistant coach at W-MU in 1997, the last time the Wolves played in the regional final. He took over head-coaching duties in 2000 and can now lay claim to being at the helm of one of the top-three teams in school history.
Pieart would be the first to say that the team would have had a very difficult time making it to the regional final without Alicia Escher. A four-year starter and two-year team captain, Escher makes her second appearance on the All-GTNS team and gets the nod as GTNS Small School Captain for the first time. The W-MU senior, who was chosen to play in the Senior All-Star Classic, is also a two-time first team all-conference hitter, but she can play just about anywhere on the court. Escher led her team with 291 kills — the third highest total in the SEISC North and 13th in Class 1A. When she wasn’t at the net, she served 63 aces and came up with 279 digs for the Wolves this season. Pieart notes that Escher is also an excellent serve receiver, which is something that a number of other coaches noticed as well. W-MU’s top opponents — Mediapolis, Holy Trinity and New London — wouldn’t serve to her.
New London’s Koral Crossett was just as key to her team’s success this season. A unanimous first team all-conference selection, Crossett returns for her second All-GTNS team appearance. The Tiger senior led the New London attack and was third in the division with 310 kills, making her New London’s main offensive weapon. She also put up 26 blocks. Her efforts and her leadership were instrumental in the Tigers meeting their goal of a 30-win season, and they earned her a spot in the Senior All-Star Classic.
Crossett was joined in the Senior All-Star Classic by teammate Caitlin Chiri. Chiri, the Tigers’ libero, led the SEISC by a wide margin with 431 digs this season and was fifth in Class 1A in that category. New London coach Maureen Heath noted she hadn’t had a player with that many digs since 2008 second team all-state selection Kaci Wagner. Chiri was also a valuable server for the Tigers, with a .931 serving efficiency and 56 aces.
Another team that saw success on the court this season was Iowa Mennonite, and as a result, two IMS players found their way on to the All-GTNS squad: Casey Perez and Olivia Yutzy.
Perez was the engine that made IMS, which finished 20-15, go this season. In fact, when she went down with a knee injury near the end of the season, coach Cindy Miller had to scramble to find someone to fill her setter spot. Perez, a junior, not only dished out 575 assists this season, which ranked third in the Southeast Iowa Super Conference North Division and 16th in Class 1A, but she also led all conference setters with 113 kills. She served 93.6 percent on the season, and her 86 aces led the conference and ranked 10th in the state. For her efforts, Perez was a first team all-conference selection and earned her second straight All-GTNS nod.
Yutzy was a dangerous weapon on the outside for IMS, spiking down 327 kills, which ranked second in the Southeast Iowa Super Conference North Division and ninth in Class 1A. Her 271 digs ranked seventh in the conference, and she also served 90 percent with 38 aces. She was a first team all-conference selection, and the junior was named to the All-GTNS team for the first time.
The final spot on the small schools volleyball team goes to Van Buren’s Hanna Haynes. Haynes was blessed with height, but it wasn’t until her senior season that she tapped into her potential on the volleyball court. Haynes was often a one-woman wrecking crew in 2012, and her career highlight came this year in the regional opener vs. Cardinal, where she totaled 25 kills, 16 digs and nine blocks in the four-set win. Overall, the senior led the Warriors in kills (252) and blocks (111), and she added 258 digs from the back row for good measure. Haynes was an All-SEISC South first team selection this fall.
The 2012 All-GTNS teams are selected by sports editors Michael Leach of the Fairfield Ledger, Ashlee De Wit of the Mt. Pleasant News and Travis Brown of the Washington Evening Journal.