Losing a strong senior class featuring two all-state performers would be enough to devastate most volleyball programs, but for Nevada it just means it’s time to reload for another run at state.
Nevada is coming off its fourth-consecutive state appearance. After winning the Class 3A state title in 2015, the Cubs qualified in 4A last year.
In 2017, Nevada will have to do without multi-time all-state outside hitter Abby Stephenson and all-state setter Gillian Tupper. Outside hitter Chloe Davis, right-side hitter Skye Borton and libero Kelsey Wiederien are also gone.
That leaves Nevada with just two regular varsity performers from last year’s 29-14 team in middle hitters Hattie Rhodes and Kacie Rewerts. But Cub head volleyball coach Lori Stephenson is optimistic that her team can contend for its sixth-consecutive Heart of Iowa Conference title and make another run toward state.
“It is really fun to be a part of such a strong program,” Lori Stephenson said. “Every high school girl in the program right now played this winter, and that dedication and experience will continue to grow our program.”
Nevada will be helped by moving back down to 3A this season. But the Cubs will still face tough competition on their road to make it back to Cedar Rapids.
“North Polk, Gilbert and South Hamilton will be really strong in the conference again,” Lori Stephenson said. “We also play a lot of tournaments where we see great 4A and 5A teams who will really stretch us.”
The Cub coach said she expects the HOIC race to be between the Cubs, a North Polk team that qualified for state last year, Gilbert and South Hamilton. The Cubs host the Nevada Invitational on Sept. 23, and they also have tournaments at Ankeny Centennial, Southeast Polk, Waverly-Shell Rock and Johnston.
Rhodes and Rewerts will be counted on a lot early in the season as the rest of the team gains more experience.
In 2016, Rhodes had 152 kills with a .229 kill-efficiency rate. She also totaled 63 digs, a team-high 63 blocks and 35 aces.
Rewerts put up 160 kills with a .278 efficiency last season. She also came up with 59 blocks.
Junior Amanda Fortmann is moving over to the setter spot for Nevada. Fortmann also has some varsity experience, recording 101 digs and five aces last fall.
“Returning starters Kacie Rewerts and Hattie Rhodes will be great leaders for the newcomers, and Amanda Fortmann is really growing into the setter’s position,” Lori Stephenson said.
The other varsity practice floor players will be: seniors Amanda Harter and Madison Thompson; juniors Mikayla Long, Kelby Rewerts, Maddie Stevens, Caitlyn Tibodeau and Kaitlin Wegner; sophomore Morgan Tupper and freshmen Ellie Gray, Hannah Thomsen and Katie Sullivan. Long will help out at middle hitter; Harter, Kelby Rewerts and Sullivan at outside hitter; Thompson and Wegner at right-side hitter; Gray, Stevens and Tibodeau as defensive specialists; Thomsen as a defensive specialist and right side hitter and Morgan Tupper as a defensive specialist and outside hitter.
“We’re still working really hard to put together a starting lineup,” Lori Stephenson said. “We have several kids really competing hard for playing time, and it will be fun to see who will step up to the challenge.”
In 2016, Morgan Tupper totaled 27 digs, three kills and one ace; Thompson put up 16 kills and five digs; Kelby Rewerts registered three digs and two kills and Stevens chipped in two digs.
Nevada opens the season Aug. 26 at the Ankeny Centennial Invitational. The Cubs travel to Adel-Desoto-Minburn Aug. 31, then host South Hamilton for their home opener Sept. 7.