SIOUX CITY | Honored today by the Iowa Girls Coaches Association as its co-Class 2A volleyball player of the year for leading Western Christian to a second consecutive state tournament runner-up finish, it won’t take long for middle blocker Brooke Wolterstorff to get whipped into basketball shape.
Wolterstorff, who averaged 17.8 points for last year’s 2A state basketball champions, has been through the routine before. However, it’s a new experience for the IGCA’s Class 3A volleyball player of the year, outside hitter Alexis Conaway, who led MOC-Floyd Valley to the state crown, then put on her basketball shoes the following week, getting ready for tonight's season-opener at West Lyon.
Bishop Heelan girls basketball coach Darron Koolstra, whose squad, along with North will host a five-team classic Friday and Saturday, is used to missing volleyball players the first week of practice.
“Typically, they bounce back fairly quickly because they’re athletes who understand the game,” said Koolstra, whose daughter Taylor was an outside hitter for the squad that advanced to the Class 4A state tournament semifinals.
Heelan and Western Christian are ranked first in Class 4A and 2A, respectively, to start the season while MOC-Floyd Valley is second in 3A in the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union’s preseason rankings. Eight other Northwest Iowa schools are included.
Conaway (18.9 ppg), a 6-foot junior guard/forward, and 6-1 junior post Emily McDonald (8.7 ppg), two of the volleyball standouts, shot 63 percent and 56.3 percent, respectively, for the 27-1 MOC-Floyd Valley basketball squad that fell 59-32 to Davenport Assumption in last season’s 3A state final.
“The Tuesday after state, they were in there and it was like they didn’t miss a beat,” said MOC-Floyd Valley Coach Gary Richardson. “Alexis and Emily participate in multiple sports because they’re competitors who enjoy high school sports and the opportunity to compete, so I’m not surprised at all.”
“They’re great kids, great teammates and they get ready quickly,” said Koolstra, whose top eight players include two more volleyball players, 5-11 senior forward Megan McCarthy (6.1 ppg) and 5-7 junior guard Jenna Bork (8.0 ppg), who were occasional starters.
Taylor Koolstra (5.4 ppg), a 5-8 senior guard, also has starting experience from a 24-2 basketball team that fell 63-53 in overtime to MOC-Floyd Valley in last year’s state tournament semifinal.
“You may practice without them the first week, but they know the game," said Koolstra. "They know what the system is like and they know the expectations, so when they arrive, they can jump in right away and contribute.”
Three more Western Christian returning basketball starters were also volleyball starters. Kim Kroeze, a 5-8 senior guard, averaged 9.7 points and made 21 three-point baskets for last year’s 25-3 squad.
Others include 6-foot senior forward/center Shae DeJager (7.7 ppg) and 5-5 junior guard Alissa Pollema (7.0 ppg).
“A number of our girls participated in state volleyball, where they came up short and they were disappointed,” said Western Christian Coach Bill Harmsen. “On the other hand, they’re looking forward to getting the basketball season started. It takes time to get in basketball shape, but these girls are year-around athletes who play in a number of different sports and condition themselves very well.”
Each of the three teams have high expectations. Elissa Jansma, a 5-8 senior guard, also returns as a starter for Western Christian, which will play at a fast pace, perhaps not as fast as Heelan, which brings back its top scorer of a year ago, 5-7 senior guard MaKayla Augustine (14.4 ppg). Rylee Yaw (5.5 ppg, 56 steals) is also a returning starter for MOC-Floyd Valley.
Katelin Langel (12.2 ppg), is the top returning scorer for eighth-ranked (Class 1A) Gehlen Catholic, which went 21-5 a year ago and advanced to the 1A state semifinals. Langel's volleyball Jays lost a first-round state tournament match to Tripoli.
Renee Maneman of No. 4 Newell-Fonda made 50 three-point baskets while averaging 15.2 points. Twin sisters Lexi Ackerman (13.2 ppg) and Kelsey Ackerman (10.2 ppg) pace No. 5 Central Lyon while Jade Lynn Vlotho (16.0 ppg) is the top returning scorer for a 25-2 West Sioux squad that reached the 1A state semifinals a year ago.
Lakes Conference rivals Estherville-Lincoln Central and Spirit Lake, participants in this weekend's Holiday Classic in Sioux City, are ranked third and fourth, respectively, in Class 3A. Allie Sievert scored at a 13.6 clip for the Midgettes while the Indians’ K.J. Veldman made 56 three-pointers while averaging an even 23 points.
Class 2A eighth-ranked Lawton-Bronson will be paced by Ashley Williams (15.3 ppg) and Josie Kopal (15.1 ppg). Denison-Schleswig, the 15th-ranked team in Class 4A, returns Chelsey Van Ness (14.8 ppg).