YORK — Despite a season-ending loss to Class B state champion Northwest High School, the 2012 season was a bump, set and a big, big hit.
It was a fitting finish for the six graduating seniors, most of whom put the final touches on their competitive volleyball careers with a 15-15 record. Victory number 15 locked in a trip to Grand Island; and almost as important, it put the volleyball players in the same company with the other six fall sports at York High which made it a perfect seven for seven to state tournaments.
Staring at a 12-14 record with back-to-back matches with Crete, and a possible district final against perennial power Seward which was sitting in the driver's seat at the B4 district competition, the likelihood of a sub .500 season seemed highly probable. However, second-year coach Kayla Makovicka and her dedicated seniors followed their game-at-a-time approach to meet one of their four team goals of “Making it to State.”
And they got 'er done!
Along with qualifying for state, Makovicka and her 12 players had three other goals which included improving their team record of 11-18 from the 2011 season, keeping up the players' positive relationships with one another and focusing more on opposing teams. For the most part, the goals were met although the coach indicated on a couple occasions the Dukes' performance fell off when the players may have underestimated an opponent or two or could have been looking ahead.
However, after lessons learned from those matches and a less than stellar performance at the Central Conference Tournament, the Dukes made the most of their practices, learned from their game experiences both good and bad, and mapped out a thorough plan to ensure the greatest chance for success.
Again, they got 'er done!
With half of the varsity players being seniors, the proven leadership provided by Liz Harlow, Erica Koehler, Aleah Rosenau, Sarah Stephens, Olivia Stubbs and Delaney Woods, who have completed their high school careers, is gone forever. Add to that the fact that nearly 80 percent of the tangible numbers in the key statistical categories leaves with the seniors, too.
As a result, the Dukes' coach was asked several questions about the future of Duke volleyball.
Q: Where do you go from here?
A: First, we will build around those who have both varsity and JV experience. In particular, the nucleus of our program as we go to the off season will focus on two varsity starters — Erin Malleck and Dacia Stuhr, a senior and junior come fall — and I am looking to them to be important leaders. I am also confident in the upcoming group's work ethic and that they will work very hard to fill the shoes of the seniors. They know how important the summer is and what it takes to be successful.
Q: What will the players from the JV team bring to the table?
A: The JV team really brought it together at the end of the season and both impressed and excited me at the same time. This group definitely has the “hard work” mentality.
Q: Do you expect the retention from the JV and freshman team to be high?
A: Yes, I hope so. That younger group has some good talent even though there is room for improvement and a need for more experience. If they stay together as a team, they could be just like this year's seniors who have been playing together for so long.
Q: Since the other high school sports will take some of the middle school assets, do you expect to get some talent from YMS?
A: Of course! I wasn't expecting 18 freshmen this year! I always say the student-athletes choose the sport they like the best, and you can't take that away from them. There is some great talent in that upcoming group and I would love to see some join the volleyball program.
Q: Were you pleased with the first-year progress in York's club volleyball program?
A: Yes, Chris Ericson did a GREAT job getting the York Juniors started. I like the opportunity of getting to coach the upcoming freshmen. It made things a lot easier this year for both them and me when the season started. We look to keep improving the club and getting more involved since it is a great chance at the local level for girls to gain more competitive experience and to get to know one another better.
Q: Who is allowed to participate in club and when does it start?
A: Right now we are looking at upcoming 7-12 graders but are looking to start some younger girls soon. We are hoping to get the club program started in early spring.
With the success of the 2012 Dukes, thanks are due, in great part, to the York coaching staff and the six seniors. The future of York volleyball lies in the momentum which was established this season and the success of the club volleyball system which has benefited many of the successful programs in Nebraska. Sign up for the York Junior club volleyball system takes place on Sunday, Nov. 18 from 2-5 p.m. at York High School media center/library.
2012 Statistical Leaders - York High Volleyball
Total Kills: 1. Aleah Rosenau 326, 2. Erica Koehler 236
Attack percentage (min. five attacks per set avg.): 1. Rosenau 41.9, 2. Koehler 40.1
Set Assists: 1. Olivia Stubbs 835 (new school record).
Ace Serves: 1. Rosenau 59.
Serving Percentage: 1. Stubbs 95.7, 2. Liz Harlow 94.8, 3. Erin Malleck 93.7
Ace Blocks: 1. Dacia Stuhr 54. 2. Koehler 44
Digs: 1. Harlow 236, 2. Rosenau 198