Haupert, Schmitz lead Raiders

Steady improvement will be the goal of the Collins-Maxwell-Baxter volleyball program in 2013.

Last season the Raiders finished 8-14 overall and 2-7 in the Heart of Iowa Conference under head coach Scott Ranck. This season, Ranck feels his team has a shot at topping that record and producing its best mark in several years.

"We’re looking to get over .500, and if that happens, it will the best (CMB) record in the last five years," Ranck said. "We also want to finish with a winning conference record and in the top half of the conference. Those things also haven’t happened in the last five or six years."

In order for CMB to achieve those goals, Ranck said there are key things his players must improve on from a year ago.

"We need better on-court communication and to receive and pass the ball better," Ranck said. "We also need to keep improving each week."

Defending champion Nevada will be the favorite in the HOIC race.

"Nevada will be tough and maybe one of the top teams in (Class) 3A," Ranck said. "Roland-Story will be near the top of the conference and Gilbert will be improved over last season. We have some tough early games and some tough non-conference games, so we will need to stay the course. That should help us be battle-tested by season’s end."

CMB will have a nice mixture of experience and young talent.

Leading the way will be all-HOIC middle blocker Abbie Haupert. The senior totaled a team-high 181 kills on a .178 kill-efficiency rate last year; she also paced the Raiders in blocks with 41 and added 117 digs.

Junior Mackenzie Schmitz will be back at setter. She dished out 174 assists and also contributed 76 digs a year ago.

Junior Abby Applegate will step up at outside hitter this year. She totaled 36 kills and was second on the team in digs last year with 144.

Junior Alex Hlavacek will move into the right-side hitter spot. Hlavacek delivered 28 kills last year.

Seniors Katie Ziesman and Hannah McWhirter, and sophomore Payge Jurgens will also help out at the net.

Ziesman can play both outside hitter and right-side hitter and she finished with 89 assists last season. McWhirter will fill in at right-side and middle blocker and Jurgens will help out at middle blocker.

Bridget Hurley will be another versatile performer as the sophomore can be a defensive specialist in the back row or play at outside hitter or right-side hitter. Freshman Bekah Pearson will fill in the libero spot.

"They are a group of young ladies who want to work hard, get better and have fun," Ranck said. "Everyone wants to be here and is focused on doing what is needed to make the team better."

CMB opens the season Sept. 3 at Lynnville-Sully.