VOLLEYBALL PREVIEW: Wolves hope to rebound after back-to-back winless seasons in War Eagle
Brooke Nicks was an honorable mention selection in the War Eagle Conference for Harris-Lake Park last season. (File photo by Matt Heinrichs)
Two schools represented the always stellar War Eagle Conference at the 2022 state volleyball tournament. Unity Christian — the conference champions — qualified for the Class 3A tournament and Hinton went all the way to the Class 2A state semifinals. Gehlen Catholic fell a game short of a state tournament berth in Class 1A.
This season, the War Eagle Conference swapped schools with the Siouxland Conference. Unity Christian is out and George-Little Rock is in. With the Knights out of the way, several schools will battle for conference supremacy.
Who will assume the throne in 2023? We’ll find out soon enough.
No. 1 — Hinton (27-3, 9-1)
KEY DEPARTURES: Aubree Lake, Natalee Junkck
KEY RETURNERS: Bailey Boeve, Ashlyn Kovarna, Carlene Hicklin, Gabbie Friessen
Hinton was stellar a year ago while making a run to the Class 2A state tournament semifinal round and, believe it or not, the Blackhawks should be even better this season. They return an absolutely stellar core of players in Bailey Boeve, Ashlyn Kovarna, Carlene Hicklin and Gabbie Friessen, and are the early favorites to win the conference crown.
Boeve, a sophomore, was a Class 2A First Team All-State, Class 2A Northwest All-District and First Team All-War Eagle Conference selection as a freshman. She led the entire state with 178 blocks and finished the year with 331 kills, 158 digs and 31 ace serves.
And the 5-11 star isn’t just a volleyball sensation.
Last winter, she was a Class 2A Third Team All-State selection after leading the Hinton girls basketball team to a 20-4 record, averaging 15.3 points, 10 rebounds and 3.1 steals per game. This spring, she qualified for the state track meet in the long jump, the high jump, the 100-meter hurdles and the 400-meter hurdles. She placed fourth in the high jump after clearing 5 feet, 2 inches, and fifth in the long jump with a leap of 17 feet, 1.5 inches. This summer, she had a .420 batting average, stole 16 bases and scored 24 runs for the Hinton softball team which finished second in the conference.
She’s an absolute stud and will be a terror in the War Eagle Conference again this year, but she isn’t the only talented player on the Blackhawks’ roster.
Kovarna, a senior, was a Class 2A Honorable Mention All-State, Class 2A Northwest All-District and a First Team All-War Eagle Conference selection as a junior. She finished the volleyball season with 774 assists, 91 kills, 167 digs and 99 blocks.
Hicklin, a senior, was a Class 2A Northwest All-District and a First Team All-War Eagle Conference selection as a junior. She finished the year with 162 kills, 118 digs, 31 blocks and 25 ace serves.
Gabbie Friessen, a senior, was a First Team All-War Eagle Conference selection as a junior. She finished the year with 150 kills, 175 digs, 29 blocks and 44 ace serves.
Seniors Avery Burgad and Belle DeRocher will also be key contributors this season. Burgad had 112 kills and 91 blocks as a junior. DeRocher had 97 digs as a junior.
No. 2 — Remsen St. Mary’s (20-7, 7-3)
KEY DEPARTURES: Gracyn Schroeder
KEY RETURNERS: Mya Bunkers, Whitney Jensen, Claire Schroeder, Halle Galles
If any team poses a challenge to Hinton for the War Eagle Conference title this season, it’s Remsen St. Mary’s. The Hawks return the core of a team that went 20-7 overall and 7-3 in the conference a year ago.
Mya Bunkers, a senior, was a Class 1A Northwest All-District and a First Team All-War Eagle Conference selection after finishing the season with 329 assists, 150 kills, 96 digs, 25 blocks and 37 ace serves as a junior.
Whitney Jensen, a senior, was a Class 1A Northwest All-District and a Second Team All-War Eagle Conference selection after finishing the season with 140 kills, 76 digs, 36 blocks and 34 ace serves.
Claire Schroeder was a First Team All-War Eagle Conference selection after finishing the season with 187 kills and 40 blocks.
Halle Galles was an honorable mention selection in the War Eagle Conference after finishing the season with 106 digs and 26 ace serves.
No. 3 — Gehlen Catholic (22-8, 8-2)
KEY DEPARTURES: Cadence Goebel, Miyah Whitehead, Sophie Ruden, Jasmine Lubben, Jadeyn Barthole
KEY RETURNERS: Aurora Goebel, Rysaiah Sitzmann, Larissa Pohlen, Lynsey Reuter
Gehlen Catholic was the War Eagle Conference runner-up a year ago and the Jays always finish near the top of the conference. However, they will need to reload after losing much of last year’s squad to graduation.
All-state performers Cadence Goebel and Miyah Whitehead are gone, as is Second Team All-War Eagle Conference performer Sophie Ruden.
Aurora Goebel, a junior, was a Class 1A Northwest All-District performer and an honorable mention selection in the War Eagle Conference as a sophomore. She finished the year with 234 kills, 163 digs and 22 ace serves.
Junior Rysaiah Sitzmann and seniors Larissa Pohlen and Lynsey Reuter were all key varsity contributors a year ago, and will be looked to for leadership this season.
No. 4 — Akron-Westfield (13-11, 5-5)
KEY DEPARTURES: Lauryn Saathoff, Alyssa Nemesio
KEY RETURNERS: Josie Jacobs, Makenzie Hughes, Allie Swoyer, Addi Naslund, Lainey Schuknecht
Akron-Westfield finished in the middle of the pack a year ago and could be a team on the rise this season.
They will miss First Team All-War Eagle Conference selection Lauryn Saathoff after she led the team with 269 kills as a senior. However, the Westerners return plenty of young talent this season.
Josie Jacobs, a junior, was a Second Team All-War Eagle Conference selection after leading the Westerners with 454 assists and 28 ace serves as a sophomore. She also had 128 digs.
Makenzie Hughes, a junior, earned an honorable mention selection in the War Eagle Conference after finishing the season with 113 kills, 191 digs and 28 ace serves.
Juniors Allie Swoyer, Addi Naslund and Lainey Schuknecht combined for 137 kills, 334 digs, 42 blocks and 53 ace serves as sophomores.
No. 5 — George-Little Rock (7-19, 1-8*)
KEY DEPARTURES: Jesse DeGroot, Samantha Fugitt, Mallory Post
KEY RETURNERS: Lindsey Haken, Hadly Madsen, Wyleigh Steenhoven, Kami Gerken
The Mustangs are newcomers to the War Eagle Conference, but they should be competitive right away after battling with much bigger schools in the Siouxland.
Lindsey Haken, a sophomore, was a Class 1A Northwest All-District selection after leading the Mustangs with 202 kills and 46 blocks as a freshman. She also had 194 digs.
Seniors Hadley Madsen and Kami Gerken, and junior Wyleigh Steenhoven, all saw significant playing time a year ago.
No. 6 — Trinity Christian (16-10, 6-4)
KEY DEPARTURES: Avery Van Maanen, Jamie Kooima, Shelby Andringa, Paityn Brummel
KEY RETURNERS: Madelyn Vis, Makiah De Jager, Maesa Cleveringa
Trinity Christian shocked some people last season, going from a 3-7 conference record in 2021 to a 6-4 mark in 2022. This season, the Tigers will likely slide down the conference standings after losing all-conference players Avery Van Maanen and Jamie Kooima.
They do return junior Madelyn Vis, who earned honorable mention honors in the conference after finishing her sophomore season with 141 kills and 36 blocks.
Junior Makiah De Jager had 74 kills, 198 digs and 53 ace serves as a sophomore. Senior Maesa Cleveringa had 119 digs and 26 ace serves as a junior.
No. 7 — MMCRU (10-16, 4-6)
KEY DEPARTURES: Avery Schlenger, Isabelle Olson, Hannah Neddermeyer, Emma Reuter
KEY RETURNERS: Jadyn Young, Kennedy Tentinger, Breanna Staab
MMCRU finished near the middle of the pack a year ago, but the Royals will be without Second Team All-War Eagle Conference performers Avery Schlenger and Isabelle Olson, as well as honorable mention selection Hannah Neddermeyer this season.
They do return senior Jadyn Young, who led the team with 222 assists and 32 ace serves, and had 112 digs as a junior. Junior Breanna Staab had 178 digs as a sophomore. Senior Kennedy Tentinger had 25 ace serves as a junior.
No. 8 — Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn (8-17, 3-7)
KEY DEPARTURES: Elise Haack, Abigail Kunzman, Emily Mutombo
KEY RETURNERS: Kylee Schiphoff, Abby Douma, Frankie Mohnie, Abby Otto
This year’s Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn squad will be without First Team All-War Eagle Conference performer Elise Haack, as well as honorable mention selection Abigail Kunzman. The Hawks do return Second Team All-War Eagle Conference performer Kylee Schiphoff and several key varsity contributors from last year’s team that finished eighth in the conference standings.
Schiphof, a junior, led HMS with 159 kills and 33 blocks as a sophomore. Junior Frankie Mohnie led the Hawks with 404 assists and 32 ace serves, and had 165 digs as a sophomore. Senior Abby Otto had 211 digs as a junior. Junior Abby Douma had 30 blocks as a sophomore.
No. 9 — South O’Brien (5-21, 2-8)
KEY DEPARTURES: Maddie Johnson, Karlee Warnke, Whitney Einck, Payton Farquhar, Tatiana Conley
KEY RETURNERS: Marissa Ebel, Brooklyn Edwards, Jinger Nieuwenhuis
South O’Brien managed two conference wins a year ago. The Wolverines will be without Second Team All-War Eagle Conference selection Maddie Johnson and honorable mention selection Karlee Warnke this season.
Senior Marissa Ebel led South O’Brien with 125 kills and 185 digs as a junior. Senior Brooklyn Edwards had 110 digs, 20 blocks and 35 ace serves as a junior. Senior Jinger Nieuwenhuis had 103 digs as a junior.
No. 10 — West Sioux (2-22, 1-9)
KEY DEPARTURES: Cassie Koopmans, Addi Dekkers, Ella Wilkison, Amy Topete, Alyssa Peterson, Elizabeth Westra
KEY RETURNERS: Addison Westergard
West Sioux totaled one conference win in 2022. The Falcons will be without Second Team All-War Eagle Conference performer Cassie Koopmans and honorable mention selection Addi Dekkers.
Junior Addison Westergard led the team with 106 assists and had 175 digs and 17 blocks as a sophomore.
No. 11 — Harris-Lake Park (0-25, 0-10)
KEY DEPARTURES: N/A
KEY RETURNERS: Brooke Nicks, Delaney deBoom, Payton Reimers, Rylie Wittrock, Lilli Gunderson
After not putting a single senior on the court last season, and with their entire roster back, the Wolves should improve this year. However, after back-to-back winless seasons, it’s tough to predict whether or not that improvement will translate to victories.
Senior Brooke Nicks was an honorable mention selection after finishing her junior season with 50 kills, 77 digs, 12 blocks and 22 aces. Senior Delaney deBoom led the Wolves with 55 kills and had 82 digs as a junior. Senior Rylie Wittrock led the Wolves with 64 assists and had 21 ace serves as a junior. Sophomore Lilli Gunderson had 51 assists as a freshman. Senior Payton Reimers had 89 digs, 44 kills and 21 ace serves as a junior.
WAR EAGLE CONFERENCE LEADERS
1. Bailey Boeve (HIN) — 331
2. Aurora Goebel (GC) — 234
3. Claire Schroeder (RSM) — 187
4. Carlene Hicklin (HIN) — 162
5. Kylee Schiphoff (HMS) — 159
1. Ashlyn Kovarna (HIN) — 774
2. Josie Jacobs (AW) — 454
3. Frankie Mohnie (HMS) — 404
4. Mya Bunkers (RSM) — 329
5. Jadyn Young (MMCRU) — 222
1. Abby Otto (HMS) — 211
2. Allie Swoyer (AW) — 201
3. Makiah De Jager (TC) — 198
4. Makenie Hughes (AW) — 191
5. Marissa Ebel (SOB) — 185
1. Bailey Boeve (HIN) — 178
2. Ashlyn Kovarna (HIN) — 99
3. Avery Burgad (HIN) — 91
4. Claire Schroeder (RSM) — 40
5. Addi Naslund (AW) — 36
5. Whitney Jensen (RSM) — 36
5. Madelyn Vis (TC) — 36
1. Makiah De Jager (TC) — 53
2. Gabbie Friessen (HIN) — 44
3. Mya Bunkers (RSM) — 37
4. Carmindee Ricke (RSM) — 36
5. Brooklyn Edwards (SOB) — 35