Martin Daily Blog

(KMAland) -- Another six KMAland conference teams had their seasons come to a finish on Tuesday night. It was regional semifinal night in Classes 3A, 4A and 5A, and while it was a pretty successful evening for some of our area schools, it was also a tough night for some others. And that’s why we’re here today. To honor them and their seniors:

Creston (42): The Panthers believed they had a shot to upset a state-ranked Des Moines Christian squad that was so dominant in their regional opener that their opponent didn’t even score in the final set. And they were right. They did have a shot. They took a set, they competed in another and they gave the Lions a run. Unfortunately, that run came to an end in the fourth set.

Now, they say goodbye to a trio of seniors that includes multi-year starters in Emma Hanson and MaKenna Hudson and a complementary player in Abby Hood. With that said, the Panthers will bring back a really solid junior class, led by setter Rylie Driskell and leading hitters Kelsey Fields and Ryli Abildtrip. This year’s three-win improvement, I think, will pale in comparison to next year’s jump.

Denison-Schleswig (43): The Monarchs put together a second straight 15-win season. To some that might not seem like much, but to those that have followed volleyball in the area, I don’t think there’s any question that’s a solid step in the right direction for D-S. Now, can they become that self-sustaining program that just inserts new faces into big roles and keeps things going higher and higher? Well, we’re not here to answer tough questions today.

We are, however, here to say that they are going to have a tough time replacing one of their leading hitters and one of their great blockers (EVER), their setter and their top back row player. In a row, that’s Allana Arkfeld, Tia Petersen and Payton Goslar. No doubt, those three will be very tough to replace. That said, they will bring back an athletic and deep junior class that’s led by four of their top five hitters.

Harlan (44): This was a young-ish Harlan team, but they still had five important seniors on the roster that had a range of roles. While the Cyclones won just 12 matches this season, I think this was a squad that was more than capable of beating almost everybody on their schedule. We saw that with a tournament sweep of Kuemper Catholic in the middle part of the season.

But back to those seniors. Setter Haley Manz and complementary hitter Elise Juhl are the two big names that played every single last set that the Cyclones played this past season. Dani Arkfeld is another that played in roughly half their sets, and Chloe Hays and Ashley Sonderman were reserves. You may or may not remember the Hays story, but it’s a pretty good one that got even better this year with her winning the Homecoming Queen. Anyway, it’s a tough senior class to replace, but they will bring back their top three hitters, one of the best liberos around and their top four in blocks.

Shenandoah (45): For the second consecutive year, Shenandoah loses a really, really good senior class. Honestly, the fact that the Fillies won 15 matches this season after losing what they did is pretty impressive. They continually improved throughout the year, and my guess is the seniors had a lot to do with that progression. Both from a production and a leadership standpoint.

Nichole and Natalie Gilbert were joined in the senior group by Roxy Denton and Claire Adkins, and they all played large roles. The Gilberts never came off the floor, and Adkins also took on six rotations late in the year. Denton was injured, unfortunately, with a couple weeks to go in the season, but she was the team’s leading hitter when she was in there. It’s a highly productive group that will, again, be very tough to replace. Coming back, though, will be one of the biggest breakouts in the area – Jasmine Rogers – and a number of other members of a deep junior class. It’ll be interesting to see who will fill some of the holes that are left, but there’s definitely something to build on.

Thomas Jefferson (46): I felt like this year’s TJ team was going to be one of the best of Coach Bonnie Clinch’s time there. And they were pretty competitive almost every single night of the season. Their senior class was a big, big part of that, and it was eight strong. Six of them were mostly regulars: Ashlie Knecht, Alysyn Knecht, Morgan Lesley, Jenna Midkiff, Torrie Rief and Rodnesia Smith Carter all played huge roles. Natalie Clark and Jaylynn Shannon are the other two seniors that saw time this year for the Yellow Jackets.

Next year, there will be a lot of replacing to do. A lot of holes to fill. They do, however, bring back their top hitter in Elizabeth Elkins and another among their top three hitters in Ellie Perrine. Junior Chloe Alley and sophomore Faith Christensen also had strong seasons in their roles, which should only serve to help them in their future years or year.

Sioux City East (47): A big 25-win season for the Black Raiders, which landed them in the top 15 state rankings plenty of times throughout the year. And their future is really, really bright. They had just one senior this season – Josie Blake. Blake ranked second on the team in digs per set, but they bring back everybody else next year. Methinks 25 wins is just the beginning for this program.

The tournament trail is a little more spread out than it used to be, but when it gets going the numbers start to quickly drop. We’re down to 16 teams each in 3A, 4A and 5A and 32 apiece in 1A and 2A. There were 29 KMAland conference seniors that suited for the final time last night, and there will be more tonight in Missouri and Nebraska and tomorrow in Iowa. It’s just a fact of life. The tourney trail is tough, folks. But we must go onward.

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