A little reloading won’t prevent the Nevada volleyball team from making another run at a Heart of Iowa Conference championship and state tournament berth in 2013.
Last season the Cubs set a school record for wins after going 33-11. They also won the HOIC with a perfect 9-0 record.
But Nevada fell a little short of its postseason goals after getting knocked off by Bondurant-Farrar in the Class 3A regional semifinals. That loss will serve as the perfect motivator for the Cubs this season.
"We want to continue to improve throughout the season and then play our best ball at season’s end," Nevada head coach James Brockway said. "We want to repeat as conference champions and advance to state."
Nevada will have to replace three all-HOIC performers in outside hitter Victoria Johnston, setter Danielle Thomsen and back-row specialist Katie Tyler. But the Cubs have more than enough talent coming back to accomplish their lofty goals.
Returning along the front line will be middle blockers Kati Cassabaum and Megan Pringnitz and outside hitter Mara Rhodes. Cassabaum is a sophomore, Pringnitz is entering her senior year and Rhodes will be a junior.
Cassabaum had a monster freshman year in 2012 as she recorded 198 kills on a .208 kill-efficiency rate and also compiled a team-high 57 blocks. Pringnitz led Nevada in kills with 257 and she had a .215 efficiency rate with 30 blocks last season and Rhodes paced the squad in efficiency rate (.232) and totaled 183 kills and 32 blocks a year ago.
Junior Michaela Matuska returns at setter and her presence will help ease the loss of Thomsen. Matuska had 493 assists last year and she also finished with 205 digs and 20 blocks.
Senior Emma Lodestein also has experience at the net. She had 38 kills and 13 blocks last year.
In the back row, senior Jessica Helton and sophomore Peyton Dugger are the only players returning with experience. Helton tallied 63 digs last year and Dugger finished with four.
Sophomores Megan Anderson and Erin Francis, and freshman Abby Stephenson will be counted on to fill out the varsity rotation.
"We have good competition within our own gym," Brockway said. "We have great depth."
Nevada’s schedule features only three matches at home, plus the annual Nevada Invitational on Sept. 28. Brockway said he expects HOIC play to be tough, plus the Cubs will partake in several challenging in-season tournaments.
"Conference matches always have a little more focus," Brockway said. "We have also once again toughened up our tournament schedule, and some of our other regular tournaments have added new top-flight teams."
The Cub coach is anxious to see what his team is made of once the season gets underway.
"I’m very excited to see this team mature and gel throughout the season," Brockway said. "I expect us to be tough early and extremely tough by the end of the season."
Nevada opened the season Tuesday in a triangular meet against Ballard and Gilbert in Huxley. The Cubs will take part in the Ames Invitational this Saturday, with competition set to begin at 9 a.m. at the Ames High School Gym.