Communication and leadership will be key for Viking netters

By Becky Walz,

Numbers will be the key for the Decorah volleyball team.
The Vikings have many spikers out for the squad in grades 9-12, with all working hard in the off-season to make this year a good one.
Looking at putting together the roster is Head Coach Gina Holthaus. In her seventh season at the helm, Holthaus has produced a 59-107 career mark. She will be assisted by Jackie Reckward and Katie Woodhouse.

Putting it together
With eight returning letter winners, the 2020 Vikings had key pieces with experience on the court.
Decorah had an up and down season, winning as many as eight games in a row before struggling with a game or two. Using a host of players, the Vikings rotated in several athletes to work to find the best line-up possible.
The Vikings finished second in the Northeast Iowa Conference with an 8-4 mark. At the conference tournament, Decorah finished 3-3, defeating Crestwood, Waukon and Oelwein.
The first game of Class 4A regional action was against Mason City, and Viking fans watched Decorah defeat the Mohawks 3-0 (25-7, 25-8, 25-17) to advance to the semifinals against No. 2 Waverly-Shell Rock. On the road, the Vikings ended the season against the Go-Hawks 0-3 by scores of 10-25, 18-25 and 19-25. Overall, Decorah finished the year 19-12.
As a team, Decorah was 1,432-for-1,567 at the service line for a 91.4 serve efficiency rate and produced 125 aces. At the net, the Vikings had 647 kills and 2,255 attack attempts. They also had 136 solo blocks and 68 assists for 204 total. Decorah also had 610 assists and 1,246 digs.
After the season wrapped, the Vikings said goodbye to eight seniors including first team all-NEIC libero Emma Johnson and middle blocker Emma Nierengarten. Also graduating were Abby Milburn (outside hitter), Avery Shelton (outside hitter), Lydia Ihde (right side hitter), Isabel Ihde (defensive specialist), Ella Kittelson (defensive specialist) and Cassie Wyatt (setter).

“We have a great nucleus of returning letter winners. Obviously the sooner we can come up with a consistent line-up, the better,” said Coach Holthaus. “We need to find someone who is willing to communicate well with their teammates and be ready to step in and take over the back row as our libero. The success we had last year has made these girls want more and some have really pushed themselves both in the weight room and the gym to get themselves where they need and want to be.”
Coach Holthaus will have five athletes back having earned at least one letter during their high school careers. At the top of the list is senior Mara Holland. The second team all-NEIC honoree dished out 369 assists to go with 55 kills, 149 digs, 30 total blocks and a serving mark of 314-for-335 and 33 aces. Defensive specialist Kallie Mincks returns for her senior campaign after providing 160 digs a year ago. At the service line, Mincks was 192-for-205 with 11 aces. Senior Annika Franzen posted 80 kills to go with 20 digs to earn all-NEIC honorable mention a year ago.
Juniors Amelia Dugger and Chloe Reiser will return to action after playing significant roles a year ago. Dugger was second on the team in kills with 109 and blocks with 47. Playing all the way around the court, Reiser had 64 kills, 129 digs, 10 blocks and served 152-for-179 with 19 aces.

Holes to fill
Decorah’s need to replace significant offensive and defensive production is of concern for Coach Holthaus.
“There are kids that we think are ready to step in and do it, we just need to see how quickly they can become comfortable and consistent,” said the coach. “We need to find a floor leader who is willing to communicate with teammates, stay positive and lead.”
Among those the coaches are looking to is senior outside hitter Ashley Schneberger, in addition to four juniors — Haley Gossman (outside hitter/middle blocker), Dahlyn Headington (defensive specialist), Lani Hubka (defensive specialist/setter) and Emma Wold (defensive specialist/setter).

High hopes
With the first game quickly approaching, Holthaus has high hopes the work in the off-season will pay off this fall.
As always, Holthaus believes the conference race could be a multi-team battle, with anyone having the chance to win on any given night. The early favorite is perennial powerhouse Waverly-Shell Rock, while the coach believes the Vikings’ conference finish will hinge on how quickly the players come together and the team’s ability to play each and every night consistently.
The Vikings opened the season at Prairie du Chien Tuesday, Aug. 24, and are at the Charles City tournament Saturday, Aug. 28. The first chance to see Decorah at home will be Tuesday, Aug. 31, versus Saint Ansgar at 7:30 p.m. 

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