KMAland Volleyball

(KMAland) -- Disappointment. Frustration. Regret. No, I’m not talking about the rejection of the Shenandoah bond issue. Well, not in this specific instance anyway. However, I am talking about the four KMAland volleyball teams that had their seasons come to a finish.

I won’t bring my own personal thoughts on the bond issue into a blog intended to honor the great seniors that had their careers come to a finish. Like, I won’t mention how more than 1,000 additional people showed up to vote yesterday. Or how that passion is impressive. Even if it is simply for just hating on newer, nicer things and trying to hold back the future of Shenandoah. Not even going to bring that up.

Today, is about these volleyball programs: East Mills (54), Riverside (55), Underwood (56) and Nodaway Valley (57).

Those are the final four KMAland teams out of the volleyball tournament trail, and I know this won’t serve as any consolation, but I kind of look at the Final Four as the Final Four in the WWE’s Royal Rumble. That means you’ve made it. You’re about receive a push. You’re about to take the next step. Now, I know this isn’t the last four remaining teams, but it’s the last four remaining teams prior to the ultimate. So…I do think my metaphor applies here, if only in my warped mind. Anyway…

East Mills – East Mills is a little different than the other three schools. The Wolverines – and their five-person senior class – have been to the ultimate twice already. They won 96 career matches in four years, and they went to Cedar Rapids for the first time in school history. And then the second time, too.

People won’t soon forget Alex Knop, Dezirae Drake, Hanna Smith, Lexi Ungry and Tess Copperstone. They all had their own roles. Some were bigger than others. For Knop, she’s simply the greatest player to ever wear the East Mills uniform (arguably). For Drake, she’s the one with 2,000 career assists that could also do a little hitting in a 6-2 offense. For Ungry, she’s the one that moved from setter to libero for her senior season and did fantastic. For Smith, she’s the one that stepped up in her senior year and provided a solid right side option. For Copperstone, it’s the reserve role and the leadership role and the practice player role. They’re all important, and they were all successful.

Riverside – Here’s your up-and-comer. The Bulldogs will not walk away from this season with disappointment. At least I don’t think they will. Sure, they were sad after last night, but they accomplished more this year than any team in the school’s history. They won 26 matches, they advanced to their first regional semifinal in school history and then they advanced to their first regional final in school history. No state tournament. Not yet. But man, they did a lot.

And the seniors had a lot to do with it. Jadyn Achenbach was the team’s leading hitter over the last several years and took her game to another level this year. Abi Petersen also had a strong season of hitting (again), and Gracie Bluml is the best libero the Bulldogs have ever seen. In addition, Ashlynn Amdor was a key member of the Bulldogs defense and will also be missed greatly. Those are four players that played nearly every single set this season, and they changed the shape and the form of the Riverside program in the process.

Underwood – Here’s your pick to be a sure bet in making the state tournament next year. I will put all kinds of money on it if the sportsbooks in Council Bluffs will allow me to do it. They are likely to be a top five team after a season that saw them win 30 times, advance to a regional final and give a 2A power like Grundy Center ALL that they wanted in a five-set battle last night.

The Eagles bring back an incredible junior class, but they also had a strong senior group that played consistently. Middle Lauren Brown averaged over 1.5 kills per set this season and was a formidable block at the net. Ashlyn Torneten hit on the right side and was a nice complementary hitting piece when teams were doubling up on their outsides. And Erica Rowe and Erin McMains – two of my favorite people all the way back from the moment I first met them in the spring of their freshman year – were terrific back row standouts for Coach Paula Carman over the last several years, including this one. When – yes, when(!) – the Eagles make state next year, let’s not forget what these seniors did to advance the program.

Nodaway Valley – Here’s another that looks like they will be a really tough out a year from now. They were already this year, but maybe they were just one step ahead of where many expected them to be. Not where they expected to be, but where others expected them to be. Because they expected this 20-win, regional final season. And now that they did what they did, people will be expecting even more in 2020.

They bring back plenty, but they also lose three seniors that will be difficult to replace. McKynli Newbury is a terrific complementary hitter and defender while Naomi Daugherty also played plenty and contributed plenty more during the course of her senior season. Jozie Christensen is another senior on the roster that played 13 sets this season and helped this Wolverines team when people weren’t watching. Nodaway Valley is going to be a state-ranked team to start the 2020 season, I think. But remember these seniors, too, because the success of this year is part of the reason for that.

Four teams. The final four before state. It might not mean a lot to them today, but it should mean plenty in the future. We haven’t heard the last of them. I know that much.

Send any questions, comments and/or concerns to dmartin@kmaland.com.