The North Polk volleyball team will attempt to earn its seventh 20-win season in a row and contend for the Heart of Iowa Conference championship in 2018.
The Comets are coming off a 22-16 campaign that saw them post a 4-3 HOIC record and reach the Class 3A regional semifinals, where a phenomenal rally came up just short in a five-set loss to Gilbert. Two years ago, North Polk finished 37-10 and reached state for the first time in school history.
In 2018, North Polk must replace talented veterans Danielle Bonewitz and Grace Nelson at setter.
The Comets also must go without talented senior outside hitter Carolyn Steffen, who is recovering from an ACL injury.
But there is still enough talent and experience in the program for the team to be a force in central Iowa.
“Our goal is always to be at the top of the conference,” North Polk head volleyball coach Matt Overton said. “We just need to peak at the right time. The ultimate goal is to go all in…all season.”
Senior Nora Aschoff has moved from the libero, where she was a first-team all-conference performer, to outside hitter and Bella Rademacher will also help out on the outside.
In 2017, Aschoff had 443 digs, 39 aces and 18 kills and Rademacher finished with 31 kills and 28 blocks.
Junior Hailey Becker returns at right-side hitter. Last year, Becker produced 113 kills, 34 blocks and 30 digs.
Junior Jaedon Murphy and senior Liz Turk will occupy the middle hitter position. In 2017, Murphy tallied 73 kills and 45 blocks and Turk had six kills and blocks apiece.
Senior Katie Scott will take over at the libero after playing as a defensive specialist last year. In 2017, Scott finished with 295 digs and 24 aces.
Sophomore Hailey Steffen will be counted on to fill the void at setter.
“Watching this team grow together is what I am looking forward to most,” Overton said. “We have players playing positions they have never played before, and it will be very fun to watch that growth.”
Communication will be crucial to how fast this Comet team can come together.
“The area we struggle with the most is overall communication on the court,” Overton said. “A part of the communication struggle is knowing what offense or defense to run and when to run it. This is especially true for the new position players. We have had a good summer, and we are starting to mesh together as a team. The girls are finding their game as a team.”
Defending champion Gilbert, a Roland-Story team rated No. 14 in 3A to start the season and perennial power Nevada will provide stiff competition in the HOIC.
“Finishing at the top will be a season-long challenge,” Overton said. “We are hoping to be peaking at the right time against the competitive teams, so we can finish at or towards the top of the conference. Right now, I can’t really say who will win the conference. But it is going to be fun to watch and be a part of.”
Outside of the HOIC, North Polk will play in tournaments at Bondurant-Farrar, BCLUW, Southeast Polk, Ballard and Oskaloosa. The Comets also face off against Ballard and Webster City in a triangular at Ballard and Newton and Grand View Christian in a home triangular.
North Polk’s season begins Saturday at the Bondurant-Farrar Invitational. The tournament starts at 8 a.m. in Bondurant.