11/28/2012 9:37:00 AM Waukon volleyball team plays to the brink of something greater than a 16-22 season
The 2012 Waukon volleyball season ended with a 16-22 overall record that included just a 1-6 record in Northeast Iowa Conference (NEIC) play. But a closer look within the matches in that overall record reveal a number of closer sets that were just a handful of plays or more away from resulting in something much more positive for the Indian netters. “We were very up and down throughout the season, which resulted in some very close sets, but the end results were match losses,” explained Waukon volleyball coach Joan Schwartz. “I felt that we were missing one more solid hitter. (Senior middle hitter) Daneshia (Snitker) definitely led us in the hitting and blocking categories and was our go-to girl. Our other hitters all had their strengths but lacked the consistency needed to give us success game in and game out.” Despite those perceived inconsistencies, the Indians came together when it counted most to play some of its best volleyball during the late portions of the season as the postseason approached. In the final two weeks of the season, the Indians secured their first NEIC victory of the season, avenged a regular season loss to Decorah in the NEIC Tournament, and came within a handful of points of doing likewise to both Oelwein and New Hampton in that same tournament, before battling New Hampton to the brink yet again in the opening round of the Class 3A postseason, where the Indians’ season was brought to a close. “I think we reached our peak at the conference tournament,” Coach Schwartz said. “We lost two close matches to Oelwein and New Hampton, getting a win from each of them. We came into the tournament seeded seventh and came out fifth.” The Tribe’s late-season success and other season highlights were attributed by Coach Schwartz to the team strengths she saw emerge as her charges continued to work and play together, beginning with a general overall team chemistry. “This was a team of very caring and encouraging girls, they battled hard for positions and starting spots, but never stopped cheering on their fellow teammates and helping the team overall be better,” she said. “They had an excellent work ethic and they understood the value of conditioning and working hard in practice and pushing each other to get better.” From there, Coach Schwartz highlighted the skill sets and fundamentals that further led to this season’s highlights. “We had a very solid back row, our back row team of (seniors) Courtney (Wikan), Abie (Mellick), Daneshia, and Sammy (Miller) were so consistent on their passing and digging,” she said. “Our serving definitely improved by the end of the season, we really concentrated on that in practice and the results helped us in the conference tournament.” Behind those fundamentals and team unity were a collection of nine seniors that led this year’s team in almost every phase of the game in some way. In addition to Daneshia Snitker, Wikan, Mellick and Miller mentioned above, fellow seniors Eli Ronan, Corbin Snitker, Leah Bossom, Shelby Hanson and Marissa Shelton each also provided their own sense of leadership in their final seasons in a Waukon volleyball uniform. “It is going to be hard to replace these nine seniors, they were an excellent group of leaders both on and off the court,” Coach Schwartz said. “Any athlete who continues with a sport throughout their four years of high school needs to be commended for their many hours of practice, dedication, and work ethic. “We are losing some two-year starters in Daneshia, Abie, Sammy and Corbin, their experience and poise on the court has been invaluable. Daneshia will be extremely hard to replace, her power on the court and true athleticism made her an outstanding player. She was able to play both front and back row, so it is almost like we are losing two players. Abie was a great defender, she could read hitters extremely well and was often in the right place at the right time to make some key digs. “Sammy was very consistent in the back row. She is not a flashy player, but she gets the job done. She was always our first server, as we could count on her to get us a few points right off the bat. Corbin played her position very well; oftentimes the right-side hitter is just a blocker but Corbin is so much more. Her left hand allowed her to run quicks from that side and she was very crafty in her hitting. Courtney did an excellent job as the libero and will leave a huge hole in the back row. It was great to have Courtney in her defensive spot all the time for that consistency in defense. “I felt that Leah took the younger hitters under her wing and helped them improve and was a great leader on and off the floor. She worked very hard at finding open spots on the court and could hit the line or cut shots on demand. Eli played smarter and smarter as the year went on in the middle hitter spot. She does not possess the power that Daneshia has, but she, too, could look at the defense and place the ball where it needed to go to earn kills. “I have a lot of respect and admiration for Shelby and Marissa. These two did not see a lot of court time, but were huge assets to the team with their practice ethic. They had to play multiple positions in practice and constantly pushed their teammates to keep their starting spots. I am very thankful that they continued playing throughout their senior year.” “All of these players had a lot of skill, but I’m going to miss seeing them as young ladies most of all,” Coach Schwartz concluded. “Each and every one of them is truly a wonderful person with many talents that I’m just honored to have worked with them.” Those talents led to a majority of this season’s statistical leadership for the Indians, with Daneshia Snitker posting team highs at the net of 184 kills and 71 blocks, including 30 solo denials. Wikan was the Tribe’s defensive backcourt leader with 448 digs, with Miller providing pacesetting numbers at the service line of 50 ace serves and a 90.7% serving efficiency. Not all of this season’s statistical leadership came from that senior group. Sophomore Allie Schwartz handled the overwhelming majority of the Indians’ setting duties, leading to a team-high 567 assists that already have her in Waukon volleyball’s top-10 list for career assists. Schwartz will join fellow sophomore Jackie Welch and the junior trio of Kiersten Christianson, Ashley Fuhrman and McKayla Stock in returning next season with varsity experience to carry on with the foundation that has been established in Coach Schwartz’s first season at the varsity helm. “I am excited to see the progress of our returning players,” Coach Schwartz said. “Allie did a very good job in the setter position running the offense and she will be a great floor leader in the next two years. I was very impressed with the maturity she showed in that position as a sophomore. Kiersten really started hitting the ball harder by the end of the season, she will be a force to reckon with next year and we’ll appreciate her experience coming back. Jackie earned her way into a starting spot by the end of the year, she is still very raw and will be dangerous the next couple of years. I’m excited to get Ashley in that right hitter spot. She, too, as a left hander, will be able to make some good offensive noise. McKayla is a work horse, she has improved in every aspect of her game, including back row and serving. She will find a way to play next year.” In addition to that returning foundation, there will be an abundance of opportunities during the off-season for those returnees and additional upcoming underclassmen to work on what contributions they might make to the future of the program. “Our club season will begin here soon after Christmas and that ranges from fifth grade on up to 11th graders,” Coach Schwartz said. “I hope we have good participation in that as we will work to get four to five tournaments for each level. We will have the open gyms in the month of June and come back with volleyball camp the first week of August.” This year’s efforts led to some end-of-the-season awards for some of this year’s players. Daneshia Snitker was honored as this season’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) as well as receiving All-Conference Honorable Mention. She also joined Miller, Bossom and Wikan in receiving this year’s Captain Awards. Miller was awarded Best Attitude and Mellick crowned with Most Hustle, with Welch being Most Improved. Both Mellick and Bossom also complemented their work on the court with similar results in the classroom, earning Academic All-State honors by achieving the academic requirements of a 27 ACT score and at least a 3.75 grade point average.
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