The Collins-Maxwell volleyball team will need some young players to step up if it hopes to turn in its third winning season in a row this fall.

The Spartans lost their top two hitters and top defensive specialist off last year’s 14-13 team. Gracie Cheville and Josie Wierson combined for 267 kills in 70 sets and Hannah Caple had 309 digs in 66.

But with the return of setters Reagan Franzen and Jillian Holst, right-side hitters Elise Robertson and Trinity Stover, middle hitter Brailyn Tankersly and defensive specialist Brooke Christie, Collins-Maxwell will still be a tough out for Iowa Star Conference teams in 2019.

“Our main goal is always to finish with a winning record,” Collins-Maxwell head coach Nicole Dentlinger said. “We are looking forward to our third winning season as Spartans! We’ve really grown over the last two years and are looking to continue to grow and improve our program. We see a bright future ahead with some really hard-working athletes.”

Dentlinger is stressing better consistency this season. Last year Collins-Maxwell started off hot, then dropped nine of its final 11 matches.

“Last year we got in a rut and ended up losing several in a row, which drove our losing column numbers up,” Dentlinger said. “I think it’s important to take each match for what it is and not look too far forward.”

Versatility will be Collins-Maxwell’s hallmark in 2019. Last season, Franzen had 157 assists, 124 digs, 66 kills, 28 aces and 27 blocks and Holst finished with 142 assists, 71 digs, 30 kills and 17 aces. Robertson recorded 81 digs, 21 kills, 17 assists and 10 blocks and Stover 71 digs, 26 aces, 19 blocks, 15 assists and 11 kills.

“Our biggest strength this season is having a lot of players who can play all around,” Dentlinger said. “It’s easier to get everyone on the court when they can play at the net and defense in the back row.”

That will help the Spartans make up for a lack of height in the front row. Franzen and Tankersley are the tallest players on the team and they both stand at 5-9.

Tankersly recorded 34 kills and blocks apiece last year at the net.

With the graduation of Caple, the Spartans are going to try going without a libero to start the season.

Christie will play a big part in Collins-Maxwell’s defensive success after picking up 56 digs in 2018. Senior Angela Calkins will also be counted on for big contributions in the back row.

Other players that could step up for Collins-Maxwell this season are senior Jaden Camp, and sophomores Kenzi Wierson and Carrie Baldwin.

Dentlinger expects the Spartans to contend for another top-three finish in the Iowa Star Conference South Division this year. In 2018, they ended up with a 4-2 conference mark.

“I think North Tama will continue to be a favorite this year,” Dentlinger said. “Baxter also has taken second-place with us finishing third (the last two years), so it will be some competitive matches when we see them both this year.”

Collins-Maxwell opened the season Tuesday in a triangular match at Greene County. The Spartans travel to Des Moines East on Sept. 5, then host Grand View Christian and Waterloo Christian in a triangular on Sept. 12.