Viking spikers deep in veteran experience

By Becky Walz,

   The Decorah volleyball team should be loaded this fall and the preseason ranking agrees.
   Ranked No. 9 in Class 4A to open the season are six returning letter winners and a host of athletes who are eager and willing to step up. Now it’s just a matter of putting it together as the season gets in full swing.
   In her eighth year as head coach, Gina Holthaus will be assisted by Jackie Reckward, Dawn Watson and Katie Woodhouse.

   The Decorah volleyball team should be loaded this fall and the preseason ranking agrees.
   Ranked No. 9 in Class 4A to open the season are six returning letter winners and a host of athletes who are eager and willing to step up. Now it’s just a matter of putting it together as the season gets in full swing.
   In her eighth year as head coach, Gina Holthaus will be assisted by Jackie Reckward, Dawn Watson and Katie Woodhouse.

Learning curve
   The Vikings of 2021 featured a slew of seniors mixed in with a host of younger talent which culminated in one of the most successful seasons in school history. Decorah put together a 28-7 overall record, second best in school history, finishing second in the Northeast Iowa Conference with an 8-2 record.
   Regional play started at home with Charles City, with the Vikes winning 3-0. Playing Western Dubuque in just the school’s fourth regional final in school history, Decorah fell 0-3 to end its season.
   Through 91 sets, the Vikings set a new school record with 1,363 digs in a season, shattering the previous record of 1,246. Decorah had 883 kills and 2,432 attack attempts. At the service line, the Vikes went 1,736-for-1,870, with 194 aces. The squad provided 815 assists and 190 total blocks (135 solo, 55 assists).

Those graduated
   Factoring into the success of the Vikes last season were seniors Mara Holland and Annika Franzen. Holland set a new record of 7.8 assists per game (580 for the season) and was named first team All-NEIC. She also had 52 kills, 183 digs, 26 total blocks (18 solo) and went 301-for-314 at the serving line with 37 aces.
   Named to the NEIC second team, Franzen had 128 kills on 308 attack attempts with 32 solo blocks and 38 digs. She also went 111-for-117 at the serving line with 12 aces.
   Also taking the court for the Vikes were Kaia Franzen, Ashley Schneberger, Ellie Luzum, Chelsey Holtz, Liza Hotvedt, Kristi Kjome-Johnson, Kallie Mincks and Sage Wedmann.

With a letter
   “We have a nice nucleus of girls returning, however, several of them will have to play in a slightly different position than they did last year. We will need to work through some kinks early in the season. We are very athletic and have a big group of seniors,” said Coach Holthaus.
   Among those leading the pack is first team all-NEIC middle hitter Amelia Dugger who hammered out 264 kills in 525 attack attempts last season for a new school record efficiency of .387. During her junior campaign, she also provided 109 digs, 66 total blocks (47 solo, 19 assists) and was 298-for-305 in serving with 35 aces.
   Haley Gossman (middle hitter) was a second team all-NEIC selection last season with 177 kills, 198 digs and 23 total blocks (20 solo, 3 assist). At the service line she was 93-for-124 with 20 aces.
   Senior Chloe Reiser (outside hitter) is also back on the court after having a positive impact for the Vikings with 105 kills, 131 digs and a serving performance of142-for-157.
   Also returning with a letter is libero Dahlyn Headington, who had 216 digs and was 97-for-108 with seven aces. Emma Wold (setter) had 85 assists, 114 digs and was 191-for-203 with 13 aces last season. Rounding out the returnees is Autumn Schaller (defensive specialist) who had 66 digs and was 155-for-166 with 12 aces.

Rounding out
   Looking to get on the courts this season are seniors Lani Hubka (defensive specialist), Britann Metille (outside hitter), Sami Mount (outside hitter), Addison Wemark (outside hitter/defensive specialist); juniors Maddy Fromm (setter/right side hitter), Olivia Christopher (right side hitter); and sophomore right side hitter Leah Holland.
   “While we didn’t have the best summer as far as attendance, those that came in were all in and hopefully they will help get us going at the beginning of the season,” said Coach Holthaus.
   Replacing the holes they lost to graduation will be a definite disadvantage for the Vikings; however, Coach Holthaus believes there are kids ready to step in and do it.
   “We just need to see how quickly they can become comfortable and consistent. We need to find a floor leader who is willing to communicate with teammates, stay positive and lead. Last year’s seniors accepted the roles that they had and pushed their teammates to be better. We had some good floor leaders and some very positive bench players in that class that had a good grasp on the game and knew how to motivate their teammates. Finding this person(s) this fall early could prove to be a challenge but eventually one will step up,” added the coach.

Looking ahead
   Coach Holthaus says Decorah’s finish in the NEIC Depends on how quickly the coaching staff figures out a line-up and how the players jell together. Once again she sees Waverly-Shell Rock as a team looking to win another conference crown.
   “We will need to play to our ability each and every night and our conference finish will happen on its own by our play and consistency,” she added.
   With the season already opening with a solid foundation with a preseason ranking and a 9-0 start, the Vikings could break more records this year.

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