A close-knit group of players helped make the 2018 season another success for the Nevada volleyball program.

Nevada hit the 20-win mark for the 12th season in a row and won its sixth Heart of Iowa Conference championship in seven years this fall. The Cubs finished 22-18 against a tough schedule and 6-1 in the HOIC.

Nevada head volleyball coach Lori Stephenson cited chemistry as the key to Nevada keeping up its success in 2018.

“The girls just had such a good rapport,” Stephenson said. “It was fun to be around them, and fun to see them working as a team through practices and games.”

On the court, the Cubs benefited from a quick-strike attack on offense and a potent block on defense.

“The speed of our offense — (assistant coach) Jonny (Sneiderman) brought in some new sets and a lot of new free ball options,” Stephenson said. “The girls really embraced the challenge and adjusted to the changes that he brought in. We also had more blocks per game this season than we’ve had in the last ten years.”

The Cubs compiled 916 kills against 435 errors for a kill-efficiency rate of 0.170, with an average of 8.89 kills per set. Nevada totaled an impressive 248 blocks at 2.41 per set and also racked up 1,360 digs at 13.20 per set.

“We really worked on our serve-receive passing as the season progressed, but it is still an area that we need to improve,” Stephenson said. “So much revolves around ball control, and it’ll be something we continue to focus on program-wide.”

Nevada served at a strong 93.4-percent rate with 195 aces at 1.89 per set.

During the season, Nevada’s big achievements were winning the Tiger Invitational in Adel on Aug. 30, placing second at the Nevada Invitational on Sept. 22 and winning the HOIC. The Comets split with North Polk for the conference title, but were officially crowned conference champs after defeating the Comets in four sets Sept. 25 at Alleman.

“It was really awesome to win the conference,” Stephenson said. “(Also) to win the ADM tournament, and to get second in our own tournament.”

The Cubs also went 1-4 against at the Ankeny Centennial Invitational to open the season, 2-3 at the Bondurant-Farrar Invite on Sept. 15, 1-5 at the Waverly-Shell Rock Invite on Sept. 29 and 2-3 at the Johnston Invite Oct. 13 to close out the regular season. Nevada faced off against 10 Class 5A and 10 4A schools during tournament matches.

Nevada’s only non-conference match outside of tournaments during the regular season was an exciting five-set victory over 5A rival Ames on senior night in Nevada.

Along with the big win over North Polk, the Cubs won an exciting four-set match over South Hamilton in HOIC play at Jewell on Sept. 20. The Comets swept Saydel, Prairie City-Monroe, Greene County and Gilbert for their other conference victories.

The only HOIC loss for Nevada came on Sept. 6 to Roland-Story in four sets at Nevada.

The Cubs’ season came to a close in the 3A regional quarterfinals for the second season in a row. The Cubs were knocked off by North Polk in four sets.

Individually, Nevada was led by first-team all-HOIC performers Morgan Tupper and Kacie Rewerts.

Tupper did everything well for Nevada in her junior season.

Tupper led Nevada in assists with 390 at 3.79 per set and in aces with 47 at 0.46 per set. She was second on the team in digs with 247 at 2.40 per set, third in kills with 125 at 1.21 per set with a 0.118 efficiency rate and fourth in blocks with 32 at 0.31 per set.

Rewerts was the top hitter for Nevada, slamming home 336 kills at 2.58 per set with a strong 0.258 efficiency rate in her junior campaign. Rewerts also 112 digs at 1.09 per set and 55 blocks at 0.53 per set.

“It was very rewarding to get Kacie and Morgan on the all-conference first team,” Stephenson said.

Senior setter Amanda and sophomore libero Ellie Gray made the all-HOIC second team and senior outside hitter Kelby Rewerts and sophomore right-side hitter Hannah Thomsen were named honorable mention.

Fortmann dished out 348 assists at 3.48 per set and compiled 180 digs at 1.75 per set. Fortmann was successful on 92.5 percent of her serves with 29 aces and also had 21 kills.

Gray led Nevada with 331 digs at 3.21 per set and also totaled 77 assists. She was the team’s most accurate server, going 370 of 379 (98 percent) with 35 aces.

Kelby produced 103 kills at 1.0 per set and also recorded 45 digs. Thomsen finished with 116 kills at 1.25 per set and she chipped in 24 digs and 22 blocks.

Sophomore Sydney Mosinski and senior Mikayla Long filled in at middle hitter for Nevada.

Mosinski compiled 128 kills at 1.24 per set with a 0.182 efficiency rate and she led the team’s strong block charge with 82 at 0.80 per set. Long picked up 49 blocks at 0.48 per set, she also had 83 kills with a 0.157 efficiency and added 42 digs and 13 aces.

Sophomore Jaeden Heintz and senior Madison Stevens helped out in the back row.

Heintz had 191 digs at 1.87 assists and served at a strong 95.5-percent clip with 33 aces. Stevens delivered 177 digs at 1.86 per set and served at 93.7 percent with 30 aces.

Freshman Maddie Dunham had two aces, one assist, one dig and one kill apiece. Sophomore Ashlyn Sporrer added two kills and one dig and sophomore Katelyn Kingsbury two aces.

Replacing the contributions of Fortmann, Kelby Rewerts, Long and Stevens won’t be easy next season.

“The seniors did such a nice job of leading the team and setting good examples,” Stephenson said. “Maddie Stevens could really be counted on for her target serving and speed in the back row. Amanda Fortmann really improved her setting — she grew a lot in her ability to read the defense and place great sets for the hitters.”

“Mikayla Long provided a high volleyball IQ as a middle. She had a pretty fast read of the game and served well for us throughout the season,” Stephenson said. “Kelby Rewerts provided a lot of leadership on the floor. She had great communication and could really be counted on to keep the kids playing well as a team, on and off the floor. I was really impressed with how she came back from her ACL injury (last year) in basketball.”

The Cubs must also continue on without Stephenson, who stepped down as head of the program at the conclusion of the season. But the next Nevada volleyball coach will be blessed with the return of two first-team all-conference performers and several other talented players.

“It’ll be fun watching the sophomores continue to grow their game and Kacie and Morgan will be seniors — they will each be in their second years in their positions,” Stephenson said. “They will be great leaders on and off the court. There will be two hitting positions open, and it’ll be fun to see who prepares well over the winter and competes hard for playing time.”