Youth wasn’t an issue for the Collins-Maxwell-Baxter volleyball team in 2013, as an inexperience Raider squad came together to produce the program’s first winning season in five years.
CMB had to overcome the loss of seven seniors off last year’s team – many of whom made major contributions to the program. The Raiders had to replace three of their top six leaders in kills and two of their top three in digs.
Yet thanks to a quick learning curve by several young players, and the leadership of the returning players, CMB managed to finish 3.5 games better than a year ago. The Raiders went 12-11 overall and 3-6 in the Heart of Iowa Conference this season after going 8-14 and 2-7 respectively in 2012.
"We knew we had some girls that were going to have to step up and fill some of those spots after we lost a lot of seniors off last year’s team," CMB head coach Scott Ranck said. "We replaced those girls with young, but talented players that took advantage of our setting and hitting strengths."
The Raiders started off 3-5. Their victories came over Perry and Panorama at the Perry Invitational and Madrid in another non-conference match.
Then CMB started to get in rhythm. The Raiders won four straight matches and 8 of 10 from Sept. 24 through Oct. 5.
CMB edged Prairie City-Monroe in five sets to ignite its four-game streak and pick up its first HOIC victory in the process. The Raiders also won at Colfax-Mingo in four sets, knocked off Van Meter in five and swept Saydel.
At the Madrid Invitational on Oct. 5, CMB produced a 3-2 record. The Raiders lost twice to West Marshall and defeated Colo-Nesco, Madrid and Colfax-Mingo.
The Raiders scored their third triumph over Colfax-Mingo in 14 days by sweeping the Tigerhawks in Baxter Oct. 10. CMB also fell to Gilbert the same day.
Back-to-back losses to a powerful North Polk team and South Hamilton concluded the regular season. But the Raiders recovered and played great volleyball in the opening round of 2A regional competition Oct. 22 as the Raiders scored another sweep over Colfax-Mingo in Baxter.
That pitted CMB against West Marshall in the regional quarterfinals on Oct. 29 in State Center. The Raiders put up a good fight, but came up short in four sets to finish the season.
"I thought the season went very well," Ranck said. "The biggest highlight was finishing the season with a winning record. Our other accomplishments along the way to that winning season included winning 8 of 10 matches at one point, winning two five-set matches in one week against PCM and Van Meter, winning the Perry tournament and finishing second at Madrid. Of course, winning a (regional) tournament match ranks up there too."
For the season CMB had 509 kills and 279 attack errors in 1,521 attempts for a solid kill-efficiency rate of .151. CMB also served at an 89-percent clip with 192 aces – an average of 2.82 per set – in 1,152 serves.
"Our biggest strength was our serving," Ranck said. "We were second in the conference in aces and one of the top teams in 2A in aces per set. Hitting and setting were also strengths."
CMB also averaged 15.15 digs and 1.32 blocks per set. The Raiders totaled 1,030 digs and 90 blocks on the season.
"Probably every coach says passing needs to improve on their team, and I would say that’s probably true for our team," Ranck said. "There is a lot that goes into passing other than just bumping the ball to the setter. Serve receive, coverage responsibilities, movement, talking, etc., are all things we’re going to continue to work on."
At the net CMB was led by all-HOIC middle blocker Abbie Haupert.
Haupert was the go-to player in attacks and she was also a strong all-around performer for the Raiders. Haupert ended up with 195 kills on .204 efficiency, 153 digs, 55 blocks and 23 aces.
Sophomore Payge Jurgens stepped up to also become a force for CMB. Jurgens had 124 kills on .153 efficiency, 81 digs, 22 blocks and 49 aces.
Juniors Abbey Appelgate and senior Katie Ziesman were CMB’s other top threats at the net.
Appelgate recorded 57 kills, Hlavacek tallied 50 and Ziesman contributed 53. Sophomore Bridget Hurley also racked up a double-digit kill total with 18.
Appelgate was also a big weapon in the back row as well as serving the ball. She had a team-high 210 digs and served at a 92-percent clip with a team-best 53 aces.
Hlavacek chipped in 41 digs, 26 assists, 15 aces and 13 blocks. Ziesman recorded 112 digs, 15 aces and eight assists and Hurley contributed 47 digs, four aces and one assist.
Junior Mackenzie Schmitz was in charge of running CMB’s attack.
Schmitz dished out 356 – an average of 5.24 per set. She also produced 156 digs and went 158 of 170 serving with 11 aces.
Freshman Bekah Pearson and sophomore Toni Spencer were valuable contributors in the back row for CMB. Pearson recorded 141 digs spending much of the season at the libero spot and Spencer finished with 73 digs.
Senior Hannah McWhirter was a big serving weapon for CMB during the season. McWhirter went 123 of 148 with 20 aces on the season.
Senior Marissa Schafer also competed at the varsity level. She contributed three digs and one ace.
Next season will be another reloading one for CMB. The Raiders must replace Haupert’s dominance in the middle along with the valuable play of Ziesman and McWhirter.
But with seven key contributors coming back CMB has the potential to challenge for another winning season in 2014.
"Many of the girls coming back got significant varsity experience this year and really want to do well so we are looking for them to step up and be our leaders next year," Ranck said. "We need to keep improving and raising our level of play to be able to compete each night in a tough HOIC conference. I’m really looking forward to next season."