Spartan volleyball program goes through rebuilding phase in Myers' first season

Joe Randleman
Ames Tribune
Middle blocker Tori Bienfang was a big bright spot for a young Collins-Maxwell volleyball program that took its lumps in 2021.

To say the 2021 high school volleyball season was challenging for Collins-Maxwell would be an understatement.

The Spartans had lost most of the talent off its 2020 team that finished 8-14 and posted a winning 3-2 Iowa Star Conference South Division.

They also needed to find a new coach after Emma Elsner stepped down after last season.

Casady Myers, a Collins-Maxwell-Baxter alum, had never coached volleyball before. But with the Spartans needing someone to fill the coaching vacancy she stepped up and took on the challenge.

"I never expected to be a volleyball coach, but our school was in need of one, so I stepped up to become one," Myers said. "I had to research a lot and require assistant coaches that I knew would assist me and the team effectively.

The inexperience, both on the court and the bench, combined with injury issues led to a rocky campaign by Collins-Maxwell. The Spartans finished with just two wins, going 2-31 overall and finishing 1-4 in the ISC South.

But Myers is optimistic about the future of the program.

"Even if we might not have had the season we were hoping for, I feel grateful for the opportunity to try to build this program," Myers said. "We have started a rec volleyball team in our school and there are many individuals who want to see our volleyball team grow and become more successful. With the support of our towns, I think that we can build something to be proud of."

She is pleased with the effort and attitude her players had in the face of adversity and liked how that brought everyone on the team closer together."

"From the first practice to the last our team started to really show up as a family," Myers said. "They were building bonds and friendships. Not only did we grow on the court in skill, but off the court with comradery."

The biggest challenges Myers said the team faced were injuries and dealing with mistakes. 

"There was rarely a date that we had the same line up as the previous date," Myers said. "This made it very difficult for the coaches and the girls to adjust and not get used to playing with the same people day in and day out. They had to play multiple positions and I am so proud of them for never fighting the coaches on these decisions."

On the court Myers said her girls needed to just forget about any mistakes they made and play more relaxed.

"The girls had a hard time brushing off mistakes," Myers said. "Volleyball is a tough sport to brush off mistakes because there is roughly 30 seconds between each set where the girls have to sit and think about what they just did wrong. I am going to find ways to help the girls overcome those thoughts."

Both of Collins-Maxwell's victories came at the hands of Meskwaki.

The Spartans swept the Warriors in two sets (21-15, 21-19) during a tournament at GMG Sept. 11. On Sept. 23 Collins-Maxwell hosted Meskwaki for an ISC South match, sweeping the Warriors by scores of 25-13, 26-24 and 25-17 for its lone conference victory.

For the season Collins-Maxwell had just 223 kills on 1,429 attacks, finishing with a minus-0.7 % efficiency rate. The Spartans totaled 935 digs and 119 blocks and served at an 85.7 % clip with 119 aces.

Senior middle blocker Tori Bienfang became the team's go-to player this season.

After missing nearly all of her junior season with an injury, Bienfang came back to lead the Spartans in blocks with 46. She also had 145 digs, 63 kills and 16 blocks on 90 % serving.

"Tori Bienfang grew tremendously as a player and as a leader," Myers said. "She not only impressed us as coaches, but she impressed other teams as well, which led to her receiving first-team all-conference."

Senior setter Kenzi Wierson was another senior leader for the Spartans. Wierson had 84 assists, 155 digs, 20 kills and 20 aces.

"One of our top leaders, Kenzi Wierson, had an injury in the middle of the season, but she still showed up to everything and helped her teammates adjust to her absence," Myers said. "She also made an impact on the other teams we played, which earned her second-team all-conference."

Wierson's younger sister Chloe, a sophomore outside hitter, had 77 kills, 69 digs, 31 blocks and 21 aces. Senior Isabelle Hill had 132 digs, 20 kills and 17 aces, junior Marissa Boege 131 digs, 59 assists, 14 kills and 11 aces, senior Sophie Wattonville 119 digs and 25 aces and sophomore Vivian Kahler 78 digs.

Sophomore Gracie Leslie had 87 digs and 36 assists. Sophomore Hannah Kimberly played in 26 sets and had 12 digs.

"We had to rely on some sophomores this year for our varsity squad and they really stepped up," Myers said. "I was pleasantly surprised at how well they adjusted to the upper classman and how well they all worked together."

Next year Collins-Maxwell will miss Bienfang, Kenzi Wierson, Hill and Wattonville. But Myers is excited to see how much the Spartans can make in her second season.

Casady Myers stepped up to fill a coaching void at the Collins-Maxwell volleyball program in 2021. She is hoping the Spartans can learn from the adversity they faced in a challenging season to build for a better future in 2022.

"At the end of this season I began to get excited for next year," Myers said. "I did not expect to want to continue coaching, but I did fall in love with it. I want this town to be successful and in order to do that we need to build a foundation to build up from. Starting our rec program is just the first step. It makes take some time, but I am willing to do that to ensure that we are successful."