The 2013 season was one of steady progress for the Colo-Nesco volleyball team under first-year head coach Dana Johnson.
Colo-Nesco brought a lot of experience back from last year’s 14-12 team. But health issues made it tough for Johnson to find the right fit on the floor this season.
“We never had a consistent lineup we could go to,” Johnson said. “Some of that was we had to deal with injuries to key players.”
As a result the Royals had to take their lumps at times. But after a rough run through the middle of September, Colo-Nesco used a strong finish to nearly duplicate last year’s marks – finishing 13-13 overall and taking second in the Iowa Star Conference South Division with a 6-2 record.
A winless showing at the South Hardin Invitational on Sept. 14 was the low point of the season for Colo-Nesco. The Royals dropped all four of their matches in the tournament, and following a loss to Waterloo Christian, Colo-Nesco was 5-9 on the season.
But things started to turn around with a hard-fought five-set home victory over South Tama on Sept. 26. The Royals went on to finish the regular season on a 6-3 run as they added victories over Meskwaki, West Marshall, Colfax-Mingo, GMG and Dunkerton.
In Class 1A regional play, Colo-Nesco opened up with a sweep over Ankeny Christian Academy. That set up a date with No. 8 Grandview Park Baptist in the quarterfinals on Oct. 29.
Colo-Nesco started hot and upset the Defenders in the opening set. But the Royals were unable to keep it up for the entire match, losing in four sets to end the season.
“We greatly improved from the beginning of the year until the end,” Johnson said. “We some key conference victories (North Tama and Dunkerton) and a great win over West Marshall. We finished second in the South Division of the conference, had four girls named all-conference and reached the second round of districts. This season was an enjoyable one.”
As a team Colo-Nesco finished with 470 kills and 237 errors in 1,250 attacks for a kill-efficiency rate of .186. The Royals also racked up 185 blocks – an average of 2.40 per set.
In the back row Colo-Nesco came up with 943 digs – averaging 5.31 per set. The Royals served at a 92-percent clip on the season with 155 aces – 2.01 per set.
All-ISC middle blocker Caitlyn Riese was an awesome force as the catalyst for Colo-Nesco this season.
Riese easily led Colo-Nesco in kills with 206 and she turned in an impressive kill-efficiency rate of .277. Riese also paced the Royals in blocks with 92 – including 52 solo blocks.
Displaying great all-around talent, Riese was also second on the team in digs with 127 and she went 210 of 230 serving with 25 aces.
The twin tandem of Madison and McKenna Farren also turned in great senior seasons for Colo-Nesco.
Madison picked up 84 kills and 22 blocks in 77 sets at outside hitter. She also had 106 digs and went 198 of 227 serving with 13 aces.
McKenna tallied a team-high 212 assists at setter and she was also the team’s top server by going 327 of 338 (97 percent) with 39 aces. McKenna tacked on 98 digs defensively and she chipped in 17 kills on offense.
Kylie Sarver was another senior to step up for Colo-Nesco. Playing the libero position, Sarver paced the Royals in digs with 173 and she also went 31 of 37 serving with five aces.
Juniors Sam Riese, Hannah Buseman, Melanie Van Loon and Tabitha Halferty were the top underclassmen performers at the net for Colo-Nesco.
Sam recorded 84 kills and 23 blocks in 58 sets. She also went 105 of 126 serving with 19 aces and picked up 31 digs.
Buseman had 45 kills, 118 digs and 13 blocks and aces apiece. Van Loon finished with 16 kills, 11 digs and 10 blocks and Halferty delivered 14 kills, 20 digs and 19 blocks.
Brittnee Packer shared the stetting duties with McKenna. Packer recorded 166 assists and 67 digs as a junior and she was also the team’s No. 2 setter by going 242 of 258 (94 percent) with 36 aces.
Juniors. Brandi Erickson and Shayla Dean helped out Colo-Nesco in the back row. Erickson had 94 digs and Dean finished with 73.
Next season Colo-Nesco will be going through a rebuilding phase with the loss of seven seniors that were the team’s backbone for the past two years.
“The senior class was a very talented group and fun to work with,” Johnson said. “They were great leaders and work well with each other and the underclassmen. Caitlyn was a huge presence up front both offensively and defensively. Madison came back from knee surgery to be a consistent force up front and in the back row. McKenna was our most consistent server all year long and she did a great job of leading from the setter position. Kylie gave us some quickness and was our most consistent back row player.”
But Johnson is optimistic the program will still be in good shape for 2014.
“We have quite a few returning players from this year’s team that gave us significant contributions this season,” Johnson said. “Starters Sam Riese, Tabitha Halferty and Hannah Buseman are all returning. Melanie Van Loon and Makayln Neuendorf could be big contributors next year, Brittnee returns at setter and she was one of our best servers and Shayla and Brandi will give us a solid duo in the back row. We should be a talented, athletic team. With the athleticism we have now and coming up we could make a nice run at the South Division title and have a run deep into the playoffs.”