Stella Winterfeld knows she’s not the tallest player on the volleyball court.
The Western Christian High School senior is listed in Bound at 5-foot-9, but despite being one of the shorter members on the Wolfpack’s roster, Winterfeld has been hitting at a better pace year after year.
Take Saturday, for example. Winterfeld tallied 50 kills throughout five matches at the Pizza Ranch Classic, which was a tournament that the Wolfpack hosted. The Wolfpack won all five of those matches.
HINTON, Iowa — The Hinton High School volleyball team on Tuesday swept Remsen St. Mary’s by set scores of 25-23, 25-12 and 25-14 at Hinton’s gym.
They played tough competition, such as Sioux Center, Unity Christian and Sioux Falls Christian.
“Stella and the team wanted to defend their home court,” Wolfpack coach Tammi Veerbeek said. “Stella is a kid who generates that energy for us. She’s a leader and she’s our team captain. She has a real passion for the game. She’s a do-it-all kid for our team.”
People are also reading…
Winterfeld is this week’s Siouxland Athlete of the Week.
Winterfeld leads the Wolfpack with 178 kills (12th most in Iowa), and the outside hitter is hitting .369 in the 17 matches she’s played in so far in 2022.
On Thursday, the Wolfpack and Wolverines meet for the ninth time in a state championship.
“I think my senior year has been going super fun so far,” Winterfeld said. “It’s such a joy to play with these girls and our team chemistry is so great. Senior year, everybody waits for that year, and it’s been great so far. I don’t feel like I’m old enough to have this much leadership. It is weird, but it does feel like my senior year.”
Winterfeld worked on how to hit her shots better, especially around taller girls on the other side of the net.
So, over the summer, the Wolfpack senior focused on figuring out how to handle situations where Winterfeld can’t jump over the net and hit it past, say, a 5-11 or 6-foot opponent.
“That’s something that has definitely helped me grow a ton,” Winterfeld said. “Sometimes it can be pretty difficult when you have a huge block, but I worked a lot on tooling and learning how to take advantage of it. I learned how to work with it and how I can use it to my advantage. Our setter definitely helps me out with that.”
“Tooling” is when the hitter tries to find the weak spot of the blocker.
She was second among Western Christian hitters last season with 385, behind classmate Abby VerBurg (414).
When she was a sophomore, Winterfeld led the Wolfpack with 351 kills, and she was one of four hitters who had triple-digit kills.
Winterfeld didn’t have enough high-level experience to be the type of hitter she is now, even though she led the Wolfpack in kills two years ago.
“We saw the high volleyball IQ,” Veerbeek said. “Stella has been around Western Christian volleyball since she was a little girl. You could see the high IQ that she had, and along with that was her great athletic ability. She’s increased her ability to see the court and see what other teams are giving her. She’s manipulating the ball better than she did as a sophomore.”
Winterfeld said she didn’t know what tooling was as a sophomore, and she didn’t know how to handle a misplaced set.
With time comes experience.
“There’s been a lot of improvement since then,” Winterfeld said.
That’s not the only skill Winterfeld has worked on since Veerbeek moved Winterfeld up to varsity before the 2020 season.
Winterfeld said she’s also seen progress in her serve-receive.
“It’s by far improved a crazy amount,” she said. “Our servers here at Western, they are some good servers. They are definitely making me a better passer. They definitely deserve a ton of credit. That good competition, it’s been a great learning experience. We’ve built off of each other so well. If you come to practice, we compete so hard against each other. It’s impossible not to get better.”
That competition has led the Wolfpack to 21 straight appearances at state volleyball, and have been to 39 total.
The Wolfpack were in the Class 2A state championship match last season where they lost to current No. 1 Dike-New Hartford.
Winterfeld said she has watched that loss to the Wolverines multiple times, but she also pointed out that it’s her job — as well as the other six seniors — to worry about what’s directly in front of the team.
The Wolfpack have two matches next week against Spirit Lake and Sergeant Bluff-Luton. They’ll also play in the Sanford Pentagon Invitational next weekend in Sioux Falls.
“We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves,” the future Jackrabbit said. “Coach isn’t mentioning Dike all the time, because we’re not playing them so soon. We understand that you have to focus on every little thing, every single day. We’re working on a state championship.
“It’s a big part of our leadership that we know that this is our last go-round,” she added. “We want to work for it so badly. Our underclassmen follow along so well.”
Winterfeld is eager about her future with the Jackrabbits. She committed to SDSU in the spring, getting that decision out of the way even before her senior year started.
She said she knew that SDSU was the right choice when she had conversations with her mom about other schools, and Winterfeld kept comparing those other schools to the Jackrabbits.
“Everything about the campus or the volleyball team dynamic, I was just comparing it to SDSU,” she said. “Everything kept coming back to SDSU. One of my favorite things about SDSU, if you watch the coaching staff, they get so excited. Our head coach (Dan Georgalas) will jump off the bench if something exciting is happening. I just love their enthusiasm.”
Glen Carlson, Hinton football: Carlson had three total touchdowns in the win over the Warriors. Carlson had two passing TDs and had one rushing. Carlson was 11-for-17 for 112 yards.
Emma Henrickson, Spirit Lake volleyball: The senior outside hitter is 14th in the state with 168 kills.