Volleyball: STARTING FRESH
By BRANDON HURLEY
A rebuild is in the works.
It’s been seven years since Greene County volleyball last sported a winning record. But with a new year comes a new coach and a new wave of players.
Chris Heisterkamp takes over a program in search of a new crop of leaders, after losing their top two hitters from a year ago (Megan Durbin and Sam Hardaway), as well as their top digger (Chantel Flack) in addition to one of their top blockers (Ashley Millard).
As Hesiterkamp settles into her role following stints at Southeast Valley and a couple of years in the Greene County junior high ranks, she has put an emphasis on turning the program over to the athletes.
“I’ve gotten to know the girls and I’ve been asking them ‘what’s in you, what do you want to see happen?’” Hesiterkamp said. “Let’s figure out how we can gel our plans and come together. I need them on board. I’m presenting things, but I’m also asking for their input. I want to have that connection.”
Greene County was a mere 7-27 last fall, enduring a 19-game losing streak midway through the season. Reversing that losing notion is the biggest motivator, while also developing young talent.
Heisterkamp views the youth as a blessing, noting how the coaching staff can mold the athletes into strong players over time.
“You can get them before they are set in their ways,” the coach said. “You can introduce some new ideas. They’ve been open to my ideas and there’s still time where I can present that to them.”
Depth and finding varsity experience on a depleted roster will be a challenge this fall. Durbin was one of the top hitters in the conference, tallying 301 kills (third most), but she’s off to run track at Iowa State. Hardaway connected on 111 kills of her own while serving up a team-high 28 aces.
Sophia Havens returns as the top hitter from a year ago, contributing 45 kills and 19 aces as a sophomore. Aubrey Heupel brings back her team-leading 479 assists (fourth in the HOIC) and 138 digs, which was fourth on the team. She also tallied 22 aces, which was second on the squad a year ago. Harleigh Weir saw significant playing time as a sophomore as well, as did Lily Muir, each playing more than 70 sets. Muir pounded home 32 kills while Heupel tallied 20 kills of her own.
Adding the imposing physical force of a Brazilian foreign exchange student should fill in some of the gaps left by the departed seniors.
Louisa Slompo stands over six-feet tall with some volleyball experience in Brazil. Having that height will pay big dividends playing in such a strong conference as the Heart of Iowa, which boasts 14th-ranked Roland-Story and notorious power Nevada.
“It’s a big deal,” Heisterkamp said. “We have Lily Muir and Brianna Osterson, who both are state qualifying long jumpers in the front row, but wait until you see (Slompo) block. She’s going to be a huge help, and she’s a strong hitter.”
With the added height and the athleticism coming back, Heisterkamp hopes to deplore a quicker moving offense, utilizing the speed of her underclassmen, hopefully setting up Slompo, Muir, Havens and Osterson for some much needed kills.
“A quicker tempo helps get the attack off before the defense can get fully set,” the coach said. “There’s the advantage of getting it in before a strong block is there or the diggers are in place.”
Roland-Story’s MaKayla Geise is back for her senior season after tallying the second most kills in the league (459). Kacie Rewerts of Nevada returns with 77 blocks (3rd in 2017) while North Polk’s Nora Aschoff was second as a junior with 443 digs.
Greene County opens the season tonight with a home triangular against Perry and Fort Dodge St. Edmond, beginning at 5:30 p.m. The Rams will endure a quirky lay-off before returning to action Sept. 1 at the South Central Calhoun tournament.
Heisterkamp is itching to see her girls finally hit the court.
“I enjoy seeing the progress after hours of working on something. When I see something click,” the coach said. “That’s definitely one of my favorite parts.”