This could be Ames volleyball's best season in years. Lola Campbell is a big reason why.

Joe Randleman
Ames Tribune
Ames outside hitter Lola Campbell is an infectious leader for her teammates.

It's her senior year, so Ames outside hitter Lola Campbell is making sure she is doing all she can to make the 2021 season a memorable one for the Ames volleyball team.

Campbell was active all over the court Tuesday in the Little Cyclones' first-ever match against Waukee Northwest at Ames. She was pumping up teammates from the get-go, diving after balls, hitting her mark on serves, coming up for support on blocks and hammering down kills.

Ames didn't have a good night. It was swept by scores of 25-13, 25-7 and 25-21. 

But Campbell showed exactly what you want out of a volleyball player and senior leader. Even when nothing was going right, she did all she could to keep her team fighting to the end.

"Every single day, she comes to practice ready to motivate us," Ames middle blocker Alexa Kopaska said. "She's always ready to work hard and to motivate us. She has stepped up so big. She's loud on the court and trying to fire us up all the time."

Campbell's infectious leadership began back in August, when she seamlessly stepped into her role as team leader when practices began. She coordinated a team program called "Secret Assists," where all the players get a gift for each other.

Outside hitter Lola Campbell is putting everything into her senior season on the volleyball court for Ames this fall. Campbell has helped the Little Cyclones already match their win total for all of 2020.

Her passion for the sport makes her an easy leader to follow, teammates say.

"Lola is really loud," Ames middle blocker Ling Bai said. "It's nice to have someone like that on the court since volleyball is all about communicating."

Even as Ames was struggling against Waukee Northwest, Campbell was always shouting out encouragement and reminding her younger teammates where they needed to be on the court.

Ames setter Elaina Deardorff said she can always count on Campbell to be a coach on the floor and help clean up any mistakes. And that was especially true Tuesday. Ames' most experienced setter — senior Olivia Smalley — was ill, leaving Deardorff to handle the setting duties by herself.

"It's really helpful to have Lola," Deardorff said. "I'm always standing next to her — she's the first person on my left. If I make a mistake, she's like, 'You got this!' and helps me move on from it and finish the play."

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When Campbell isn't shouting out encouragement and advice to her teammates, she's leading by example. Even with the Wolves dominating Tuesday's match, Campbell was wearing out her knee pads with all of the times she dove on the floor for the ball.

"My dad actually asked me last night if I needed another pair," Campbell said. "I told him I was good — I just got new ones."

Her coaches and teammates love that enthusiasm.

"Us coaches can't be out on the court with them," Ames head coach Meg Williams said. "They have to work together and motivate each other. When you're down in a set, it's nice to have that person like Lola who is upbeat and helps motivate people to do better."

Coaches and teammates also love her abilities, of course. 

Campbell had four kills, three digs and one block against Waukee Northwest. She also went 9-for-10 on serves. She goes all the way around for Ames. She is a strong outside hitter, but also gets after it in the back row and is a skilled server. 

"It's always good to have players that can play six rotations," Williams said. "If something is not going right, then they're an option in the back row or the front row."

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Kopaska also plays all the way around for Ames. The two seniors complement each other perfectly.

"Lola and I get to play opposite of each other now," Kopaska said. "She gets to play back row and I get to hit off of her perfect passes. I hope to do the same for Lola."

For the season, Campbell has 38 kills, 27 digs, seven assists and three blocks. She's also an impressive 48 of 51 serving with six aces.

"She's a stud," Kopaska said. "She's really gotten better over her four years. It shows how hard she's worked every day."

Campbell's play this year could result in her playing at the next level in the future.

"I know girls are looking at playing college volleyball, so they're trying to make their senior year their best year so they can start being scouted," Williams said. "It's her senior year and she wants to go out with a bang."

That motivation could also help the Little Cyclones have their best season during her four years with the program.

Ames was only 26-67 during her first three years, including 4-16 last season. The Little Cyclones have already matched last year's win total, with a 4-5 record after the Waukee Northwest loss.

"We've finally found our groove," Campbell said. "Obviously tonight didn't go as planned, but we're still really excited because we have another game (at Woodward-Granger) on Thursday and get another chance to try again. We're just really excited."