Volleyball: Overpowering height
By BRANDON HURLEY
Story City - Class 3A’s leader in kills sure looked the part Wednesday night.
Roland-Story’s MaKayla Geise and her towering running mates flexed their muscles and rolled out an unstoppable offense as the central Iowa squad swept Greene County, 3-0 in the region 3 quarterfinals in Story City.
Geise entered the contest with 422 kills and didn’t disappoint, tallying 17 more, swinging freely with unmatched velocity and accuracy. The junior also formed a key cog in the R-S front line, as well at the service line, producing a 92 percent serve rate.
The Rams could muster little on either side of the net facing the talented squad, as they fell victim to a scorching hot offense which took advantage of Greene County’s lack of height.
R-S won 25-11, 25-13 and 25-22, placing the ball where Ram defenders weren’t, tallying 43 kills in all, aided by Amy Rathmacher’s 11 kills as well. Geise stands at 6-01 while many of the Norse’s other hitters near the six-foot mark. That presented quite the challenge, Greene County head coach Donna Carhill said.
“We aren’t very big, so we have struggled with that all year,” the coach said. “We’ve tried single blocking and double blocking. Some of our back row players have said how it (feels like) it’s open season.
I can’t make them any bigger than they are.”
Roland-Story (28-10) won all six of its sets against Greene County this fall, pulling out a sweep Sept. 26 in Jefferson in which Geise recorded 12 kills. In two games against the Rams, Geise tallied 29 total kills. Her height and power set her apart, Carhill said.
“She’s tall, so when she jumps, she’s above everyone else,” the coach said. “She has a fast arm and a great approach. She’s quite the player no question about it.”
Following a pair of disheartening sets to open the match, Greene County could’ve conceded, quietly transitioning into the off-season. But thanks to gritty leadership, desperation and heart, the Rams played their best set of the night in game three, taking R-S to the brink. The Rams even held a 7-4 lead and led as late as 11-9 before the Norse took control. The two HOIC squads played neck-and-neck with Greene County pulling within one at 23-22. But, the R-S talent was just too much as they grabbed the eventual set and match win, advancing to Tuesday’s semifinal match. Still, coach Carhill was pleased with her team’s desire to push on.
“I think we had a couple seniors that really didn’t want to be done and they were throwing their whole heart into it,” Carhill said.
Senior Megan Durbin led the Rams with nine kills and 18 digs, while fellow senior Chantel Flack also recorded 18 digs. As a team, in part to a lack of height, Greene County mustered just 16 kills.
The Rams finished the year at 7-27 and graduate five seniors. Though this fall was a struggle at times, Greene County’s youngest players, including freshman starter Lily Muir along with sophomores Lily Muir and Aubrey Heupel saw plenty of action. That notion should bode well for the future, Carhill said.
“We saw some progress in some kids. Maybe not as much as we had hoped,” the coach said. “We were just so inexperienced. When you start playing freshmen, they are jumping from eighth grade to varsity, that’s a huge step.”
Durbin was the only returning player with any significant amount of varsity experience, and she certainly proved her worth, tallying 301 kills, which was the third best mark in the conference and 18th in the state to go with 31 blocks.
The remaining players came from JV or lower. Samantha Hardaway led the Rams in serving with 28 aces while Heupel recorded the fourth most assists in the league with 479. Flack finished her final season in the red and black with 276 digs.
Though the wins didn’t come, encouraging moments were frequent, but an obvious element is lacking - height - as are a few other things.
“I think they took a big step this year,” Carhill said. “We need to work on our vertical. Unless they decide to grow six inches in the offseason, we need to become better jumpers. Just be stronger in general and work on our foot speed. If we aren’t big, we need to be quicker.”
Roland-Story advanced to host 15th-ranked South Central Calhoun Tuesday, Oct. 24 in the region 3 semifinals. The Titans were taken to five sets before prevailing, 3-2. Second-ranked Kuemper Catholic advanced on the top half of the bracket with an easy 3-0 sweep of Atlantic.