Collins-Maxwell made quite an impression in its first season of competition as a volleyball program in 2017.

The Spartans posted a strong 18-8 record in its inaugural campaign. They finished third in the Iowa Star Conference South Division, behind North Tama and Baxter, with a 5-2 record.

“I couldn’t be happier about our first season as Spartans!” Collins-Maxwell head volleyball coach Nicole Dentlinger said. “We finished 18-8, which feels pretty great to have such a successful first year and a winning one at that. I am so thankful for the athletes I was able to work with and our amazing support system of faculty, staff, parents, community members and more.”

After Collins-Maxwell and Baxter ended their sports-sharing agreement, Dentlinger inherited an all-conference middle hitter in senior Brianda Bane and experienced back-row specialist Katie Camp. But in order to help the team, Camp had to transition over to setter and the rest of the roster was fairly green, leaving the Spartans with some uncertainty heading into the season.

Collins-Maxwell started the season with a five-set loss at Ogden on Aug. 28, then had to wait 10 days until its next match. So it took awhile for the Spartans to build some confidence.

But once Collins-Maxwell got in its comfort zone, it proved to be a formidable squad. On Sept. 7, Collins-Maxwell swept Waterloo Christian to start a nine-game winning streak.

The Spartans defeated GMG twice, Waterloo Christian again and Meskwaki at the GMG Invitational on Sept. 9. Two days later at a quadrangular in Madrid, Collins-Maxwell took down Madrid, Baxter and Glidden-Ralston.

On Sept. 12 Collins-Maxwell traveled to Tama and swept Meskwaki. The Spartan win streak came to a close against eventual ISC South Division champion and Class 1A state qualifier North Tama on Sept. 14 in Traer.

But the loss was only a small speed bump. Collins-Maxwell came back to win four straight with ISC victories over CAL, Colo-NESCO, GMG and Valley Lutheran.

The Spartans went 2-1 at the Madrid Invitational on Sept. 30. They fell to Webster City, but defeated Madrid and swept Colfax-Mingo.

On Oct. 3, Collins-Maxwell came up short against Baxter in an Iowa Star Conference match at Maxwell. Four days later, the Spartans went 1-3 at the BCLUW Invite, topping East Marshall, dropping the rubber match with Baxter and also falling to New Hampton and West Marshall.

Collins-Maxwell regrouped to end the regular season with a sweep of Saydel in Maxwell. The Spartans then came up big in the opening round of 1A regional play, sweeping Lynnville-Sully at Sully.

The Spartans saw their season come to a close in the regional quarterfinals against North Tama at Traer.

Dentlinger said the the early nine-game winning streak and reaching the regional quarterfinals were big high marks for the team on the competitive side. But she said there were a lot of things that went on off the court that made the whole season enjoyable.

“As a middle school teacher, I haven’t had some of these girls before, so it was fun to get to know more of the students at Collins-Maxwell,” Dentlinger said. “We had some fun team outings, as well including a trip to get ice cream after practice one day, and we went to Jethro’s in Ames, followed by an Iowa State volleyball game, so we worked hard but had a lot of laughs together as well.”

As a team, Collins-Maxwell had a 569 kills at 8.25 per set with a .188 kill-efficiency rate.

“Our front row really stepped up its game this year,” Dentlinger said. “Some girls were playing new positions, and some girls were just playing more this year than they had in the previous couple of seasons. It also seemed like when one athlete was having an off night, the other girls stepped up and made adjustments, which was great to see.”

The Spartans totaled 926 digs and 475 aces, averaging 13.42 and 6.88 per set respectively. The also totaled 161 blocks at 2.33 per set and served at an 89.5-percent rate with 165 aces at 2.39 per set.

Bane was the driving force at the net for Collins-Maxwell.

“Brianda just did something with the ball that made it almost impossible to dig up when she’d slam it down near the 10-foot line,” Dentlinger said. “She was very good defensively at the net and was quick to read the opposing team’s hitters.”

During the season, Bane totaled 283 kills at 4.10 per set with a .375 kill-efficiency rate and finished with 96 blocks at 1.39 per set as a unanimous all-ISC South Division performer. Bane also delivered 71 digs and 29 aces.

Camp did a tremendous job setting up the Spartan offense as a second-team all-ISC South Division performer. She handed out 442 assists at 6.60 per set, and also recorded 118 digs, a team-high 34 aces, six blocks and one kill.

“Katie was one of the most dedicated and determined players on the team,” Dentlinger said. “She was always hustling at practice and ran all over the court to set the ball to our front row athletes. Katie was also a very good defensive player, which helped the team out on many occasions.”

Juniors Gracie Cheville and Josie Wierson were valuable performers at outside hitter. Cheville made all-ISC South Division honorable mention.

During the season, Cheville racked up 119 kills with a .158 efficiency, 195 digs, 25 aces and six blocks. Wierson delivered 105 kills, 100 digs, 32 aces and 26 blocks.

Sophomore Jillian Holst stepped up on at right-side hitter. Holst totaled 48 kills, tallied a team-best 94.1-percent serving rate with 15 aces and tacked on 116 digs, 12 blocks and seven assists.

Junior libero Hannah Caple led Collins-Maxwell in the back row. Caple came up with 277 digs at 4.01 per set and she also went 188 of 207 serving with 29 aces.

Sophomore Elise Robertson came on strong during the second half of the season. Robertson finished with 28 digs, 20 assists, four kills and three blocks.

Trinity Stover added 19 digs, 11 blocks, seven kills and five assists during her sophomore campaign. Freshman Brooke Christie participated in 10 sets and had two digs and one ace, sophomore Jaden Camp delivered one block and one kill in two sets and sophomore Brailyn Tankersley participated in one set.

It will be tough for Dentlinger to replace two all-conference performers in Bane and Katie Camp next season.

“I only had the opportunity to coach these two ladies for one year, but I’m so glad that I had even just one year with them,” Dentlinger said. “They will certainly be missed, but we wish them success in their futures!”

But with the majority of the starting lineup returning, Collins-Maxwell still figures to be among the top ISC South Division teams in 2018.

“I am really positive about my returning athletes next year,” Dentlinger said. “I know most of them are planning on playing through the winter, and I hope to attend a team camp before the season begins next year. Also with our newly renovated gym completed, we should be able to get together throughout the summer for some open gyms and just keep working on improving before next season. I’ll have three returning juniors as seniors next year — Cheville, Wierson and Caple — which I feel very confident about since all three of them are very athletic and willing to work hard to keep improving.”