P-C volleyball preview: READY TO LAUNCH

New coach, youth and experience lead Paton-Churdan in 2016
“Our biggest strength so far isn’t necessarily a skill used on the court, It’s actually the overall mentality of a lot of my players. They are working extremely hard to get better, and I really think they are hungry for a good season.  They want to be in the gym a lot and so as a first year coach here that is great to see.” - First-year head coach John Johnson


Sports Editor




CHURDAN –  New Paton-Churdan volleyball coach John Johnson faces a tall order in replacing departed seniors Sydney Koch and Carleigh Paup in his first season at the helm. 

But a solid core of young, experienced players poised to fill the void should prove to be more than capable building blocks.  

Paup and Koch were the only two players to graduate from last season’s 8-11 squad that finished with a .500 record in the Rolling Valley Conference. 

Johnson has 22 years of coaching experience under his belt and began his career as a volunteer assistant at Iowa Central Community College at the age of 19. 

He stuck around the Fort Dodge area for awhile coaching at a handful of different high schools while also assisting at Iowa Central. In addition, the 41-year old has coached USA Club and AAU volleyball for 25 years. 

His coaching philosophy centers around team work and a cohesiveness on the court. 

“Volleyball is a sport where it definitely takes an entire team to win, so I promote the heck out of that,” Johnson said. “The girls are doing a real good job of that and we have made huge strides forward as a program.”

Paton Churdan finished alone in sixth place in the Rolling Valley with a 5-5 conference record a year ago. They fell to Adair-Casey, 3-0 in the opening round of regionals. 

Glidden-Ralston was the conference champ last season with an 8-2 record while four teams tied for second at 7-3. 

Coon Rapids-Bayard led the conference in kills last fall with 754 and a conference-leading 258 service aces. Boyer Valley came in second with 713 kills and 243 aces. 

Together, the departed duo of Koch and Paup combined for almost 300 kills and nearly 60 aces during their final season. 

Koch’s 259 kills were second in the conference as she featured a 3.98 kill per set average. She also served up 29 aces to lead the team while Paup swatted 27. 

Johnson never had a chance to coach Paup, but he did have a lengthy history with Koch, so he realizes the impact her loss will have on the program.  

“I have known Sydney and her family for a long time, and have coached her multiple times in club ball so I know her well,” the coach said. “She is a great kid and very athletic and explosive volleyball player. She was really relied on last year for a lot of leadership and plays on the court.”

A pair of sophomores as well as a handful of juniors and seniors should prove to be competent replacements this fall as the Rockets take aim at a winning record and a top five finish in the Rolling Valley Conference. 

The Rockets will turn to sophomores Megan Carey and Jenna Byers as well as junior Grace Geisler. Carey pounded 82 kills as a freshman while Byers accounted for 65 kills and 150 digs last fall. 

Carey also served up 28 aces and added 36 blocks (8th in the RVC) while Geisler knocked in 26 aces as a sophomore in addition to her team-leading 173 digs, securing her a top 15 spot in the conference.  

Johnson expects big things from the versatile group, especially from Carey. 

“(Megan) is taking on a very big role this year and she has done an excellent job fitting in to my program ideals and will be expected to carry a big leadership role this year,” the coach said. “The great thing is, she’s only a sophomore so I am really looking forward to having her.”  

That trio along with Mariah Tasler and Maria Tasler should provide a solid foundation for the Rockets and each athlete has worked tirelessly in the offseason. 

When the coach first entered practice, he noticed how much passion the Rockets have for the game. Their dedication to improving each and everyday was a welcome sight. 

“Our biggest strength so far isn’t necessarily a skill used on the court, It’s actually the overall mentality of a lot of my players,” Johnson said. “They are working extremely hard to get better, and I really think they are hungry for a good season.  They want to be in the gym a lot and so as a first year coach here that is great to see.”

But with that, Johnson noted how the girls don’t always make the best decisions on the court. They can’t just rely on talent if they want to win more than eight games this season. 

“Our weaknesses lie in that our volleyball IQ is very low,” the coach said. “We are decently athletic and fast but we just don’t know much about volleyball. That makes (it) very challenging.”

Eight all-conference players return to the Rolling Valley this year which should set up for a wide open conference battle.  

The Rockets open the season Saturday, Sept. 3 with the Coon Rapids-Bayard tournament in Coon Rapids. Their first home match is set for Tuesday, Sept. 6 against Ar-We-Va. 

With the talent his squad returns, Johnson sees Paton-Churdan making a push for a top four spot in the Rolling Valley this fall. 

Johnson believes this group of girls has a high ceiling and he is ready to leave his mark on the Paton-Churdan program. A deep postseason run seems unlikely, but he won’t temper his expectations. 

“I always have decently high expectations for my teams, I think it’s important to aim high,” the coach said. “Of course, we always aim to make state, I think we have the athletes to do that but I am not sure if we have the mental edge for that.  

I am really looking forward to being a part of the Paton Churdan athletic program. I have had amazing support so far from both the kids and the administration. Really can’t wait to get on the court.”


2016 Paton-Churdan Volleyball Schedule

**Home games in bold**

Saturday, Sept. 3 - Coon Rapids-Bayard Tournament (Coon Rapids)   Away

Tuesday, Sept. 6 - Ar-We-Va    Home

Thursday, Sept. 8 - Woodbine   Away

Monday, Sept. 12 - Orient Macksburg   Away

Tuesday, Sept. 13 - Glidden-Ralston (Glidden)   Away

Saturday, Sept. 17 - Carroll Tournament   Away

Tuesday, Sept. 20 - Charter Oak-Ute    Home

Thursday, Sept. 22 - Eagle Grove    Away

Tuesday, Sept. 27 - CAM    Home

Tuesday, Oct. 4 - Boyer Valley   Away

Thursday, Oct. 6 - West Harrison   Away

Saturday, Oct. 8 - CAM Tournament  Away

Tuesday, Oct. 11 - Coon Rapids-Bayard   Home

Saturday, Oct. 15 - Exira-EHK Tournament   Away

Tuesday, Oct. 18 - Regionals   TBA


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