Lakeside Lutheran senior outside hitter Ella Collins was named Player of the Year in Capitol Conference North Division all-conference volleyball voting held recently.
Collins, an Eastern Illinois University recruit, had a league-high 419 kills and a hitting percentage of .369, averaging 3.74 kills per set. She also had 41 total blocks, served 33 aces and dug out 208 shots.
“Ella has been on varsity for four years and each year she has improved dramatically,” Lakeside Lutheran volleyball coach Jenny Krauklis said. “She did a great job this year on reading a block, and hitting in different lanes of the net.
“Ella is a real competitor, extremely focused and works hard to achieve her goals. Even though her teammates relied on her to come through with big plays, she is one of the most humble athletes I have met and her love for volleyball and her teammates always shines through.”
Joining Collins on the first team were Luther Prep junior setter/hitter Grace Kieselhorst, Lake Mills senior outside hitter Grace Schopf, Lake Mills sophomore setter Sydney Lewellin, Lakeside Lutheran senior setter Karli Johnson and Lakeside Lutheran junior libero Kylee Gnabasik. Collins and Schopf were each unanimous selections.
Schopf had a team-high 274 kills, hitting percentage of .243 and averaged 2.9 kills per set. She also served 48 aces, third most on the team, and had the second most digs (280).
“Every year she performs to a higher standard,” Lake Mills volleyball coach Courtney Brock said. “She came in strong, is smart, sees the court and understands the game outside of just the fundamentals. She’s super fast, she runs things down and it’s full effort until the last point. That effort is there at all times. When the team is in tough situations, she is the one they rely on.”
Lewellin totaled a team-high 810 assists, averaging 9.4 per set, served a team-high 65 aces and had 196 digs. She also had 80 kills.
“Sydney has so much control,” Brock said. “As a setter, we need someone with great knowledge and the capacity to handle a fast level of plays. She is touching every second ball. Her ability to push our offense at a faster pace is really what made our offense successful this year. She gets her hands on everything. Regardless of whether it’s a perfect or bad pass, she is converting those. Keeping the offense alive, putting hitters in position to get a kill.”
Johnson, a Campbellsville University commit, totaled a league-high 842 assists, an average of 7.4 per set, and served a league-best 91 aces, both totals tied for second highest in single-season program history. She also had 204 digs and 62 kills.
“Karli’s strength is her knowledge of the game and knowing where to put a ball to put her hitters in the best possible place to score a point,” Krauklis said. “Karli has a very aggressive serve which helped us at key moments in many matches. Karli is a very mentally tough athlete who was a great motivator for our team and encouraged others to always give their all in practices and matches.”
Gnabasik led the team in digs with 519, pushing her varsity career total to 1,480. She also served 64 aces and had 71 assists.
“Kylee’s strongest asset as a libero is her leadership and direction on the court,” Krauklis said. “She was the vocal coach on the floor and could often be heard calling out shots to our hitters. She has an innate ability to read the opponent, allowing her to react to tips and hits of all angles. Her ability to consistently pass allowed us to run a quick offense.”
Second team selections included Luther Prep sophomore setter/hitter Andrea Bortulin, Lake Mills senior defensive specialist/libero Tatum Riggleman and Lakeside Lutheran junior outside hitter Payton Kuepers.
Riggleman had a league-high 563 digs, averaging six per set, and served 39 aces.
“Tatum really controlled our defense,” Brock said. “She runs the defense, can read really well, puts her body in position to take as many balls as she can. When defense isn’t going right, she corrals the troops and gets everybody back in that headspace we need to be in on the court. She is relentless and gets touches on everything. She converts a ton of touches that come off our blocks.”
Kuepers was second on the team in kills (357), and digs (233) and third in aces (68). She had a hitting percentage of .321.
“Payton has a strong approach and a strong swing,” Krauklis said. “Together with her height and her vertical, she could often connect above a block, putting her in a great position to score. Her defense in middle back was an asset to us this year, as well, as she could often reach balls in the far corners.”
Honorable mention selections included Lakeside Lutheran junior middle Sydney Langille, Lakeside Lutheran sophomore middle Ella DeNoyer, Luther Prep junior left hitter Lauren Paulsen, Lake Mills senior right hitter Olivia Dunkleberger and Lake Mills senior middle blocker Olivia Lee.
Langille had 20 solo blocks and a conference-best 118 total blocks.
“She was often up against other team’s best hitters, so her long reach and aggressive defense really helped us put pressure on other teams,” Krauklis said. “What I love most about Sydney is her drive to always improve, and the smile she has on her face. She loves playing volleyball, and loves to be in the gym and that infectious personality kept our team morale high.”
DeNoyer had a team-high 40 solo blocks, finishing second in conference and on the team in total blocks with 116.
“Ella has improved dramatically from her first year on varsity last year to this year,” Krauklis said. “Her confidence on the court shined, as she was much more aggressive on offense and became a go-to hitter for us. While Ella isn’t the tallest middle, her knowledge of the game allowed her to effectively read hitters and time her block. She was able to get a lot of hands on opponents’ attacks which was a huge benefit for us defensively.”
Dunkleberger had 121 kills, the third highest mark on the team and good for 1.6 per set, and a hitting percentage of .262.
“Olivia was our spark plug on the court,” Brock said. “She has such a high energy level and positivity. Whether she was on or off the court, she kept everything high energy. Her level of play matched that and she was that vocal player on the court. Her vertical and hang time are kind of out of this world. She is up, waiting and blockers have already come up and left. She had just impeccable timing it made it hard to stop on the right side. Whether she’s hitting or playing defense, she is running balls down or going for the kill when she has the opportunity too.”
Lee’s 207 kills were second most on the team. She had a hitting percentage of .346, averaged 2.2 kills a set and had 28 solo blocks, totaling tied for a team-best 76 total blocks.
“Sophia has been consistent throughout her career. She came out stronger this year then when she left us last year,” Brock said. “She was getting her hands on everything. One of those hitters that had a difficult attack to defend. We were able to move her around. She wasn’t a player who opponents knew she was going to hit this way the entire game. She challenged herself and the team to up the level of play. She has a high vertical and good wrist snap.”
Lakeside Lutheran won the Capitol North this season with a 10-0 record, followed by Lake Mills at 8-2, Luther Prep and Lodi each at 5-5, Columbus at 2-8 and Poynette at 0-10.
2019 ALL-CONFERENCE VOLLEYBALL
Player of the Year
Ella Collins, Lakeside Lutheran
FIRST TEAM — Collins, Lakeside Lutheran, sr.; Schopf, Lake Mills, sr.; Sydney Lewellin, Lake Mills, soph.; Kylee Gnabasik, LL, jr.; Grace Kieselhorst, WLP, jr.; Johnson, LL, sr.
SECOND TEAM — Amanda Miller, Lo, sr.; Tatum Riggleman, LM, sr.; Andrea Bortulin, WLP, soph.; Kaitlyn Sharkey, Lo, sr.; Payton Kuepers, LL, jr.; Jaden Kolinski, Lo, jr.
HONORABLE MENTION — McKenzye Bruss, Col, jr.; Lauren Paulsen, WLP, jr.; Ella DeNoyer, LL, soph.; Sophia Lee, LM, sr.; Molly Anderson, Poy, sr.; Sydney Langille, LL, jr.; Olivia Dunkleberger, LM, sr.; Hannah Fox, Col, jr.