Regina senior Sarah LehmanRegina senior Grace SwenningRyan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Building a program can feel like assembling a puzzle.
Piece by piece, over time the final picture starts to come together.
Kara Kimm watched a few pieces slide into place in her first two seasons leading the Regina volleyball program.
After posting a 34-31 record over the last two years Kimm and the Regals believe this is the season the puzzle really starts to take shape.
“I think being more comfortable with me as a coach and the things that we do, the kids are seeing it come together,” Kimm said. “That’s what we need to do is put that puzzle together.”
Regina returns a lot of big pieces to its puzzle this season.
Five starters return from last year’s team that finished 18-16 and advanced to the regional quarterfinals.
The list of returners features three senior multi-year starters and includes the Regals’ top three hitters from last year along with senior setter Grace Swenning.
A fourth senior, Katelyn Murhammer also returns after missing all of last season with a torn ACL.
“We have everything we need now it’s just about putting all the puzzle pieces together,” Swenning said. “That’s what coach talks about a lot is putting those puzzle pieces together.”
The biggest of those returning pieces is senior outside hitter Sarah Lehman.
Lehman was named to the River Valley Conference elite all-conference squad last year after leading the Regals in kills for the second straight season.
The 5-foot-10 Lehman had 387 kills a year ago and enters the season needing 168 to reach 1,000 for her career.
Lehman headlines a trio of returning Regina hitters that combined for 713 kills a season ago.
“The four seniors have been playing with each other the whole four years and all of us really want to at least make it state this year and I know that we can do it,” Lehman said. “We have the ability and we are comfortable with each other and comfortable with our coach.”
Lehman will have help at the net this season.
Senior Olivia Wolfe was second on the team with 214 kills last year while junior Katrina Chambliss added 112 kills.
Junior Katie Dunn also returns with starting experience in the middle after posting 69 kills a season out of that spot as a sophomore.
“I see more depth this year and that is good for me in the sense that I have been working with these kids for three years and I should be able to see that work that they put in the gym paying off,” Kimm said. “I think the younger kids see that too and that just makes them want to work harder.”
The 5-foot-5 Swenning returns at setter to direct the Regina attack after handing out 675 assists last season.
Swenning will have plenty of options to choose as teams inevitably attempt to slow Lehman.
“Grace has gotten way better, she has improved a ton and I’m really excited for how good she can be this year,” Lehman said. “We have to be synced in together and we have that this year.”
Regina must find a replacement for all-state libero Mac Conlon but has several players returning with back row experience.
Murhammer expects to take over at libero after missing all of last season. Junior Clare Dunne returns with experience in the back row along with senior Morgan Parthemore.
“It goes back to those four seniors and the building blocks that we have created, that is a solid foundation right now,” Kimm said. “We lost some people from last year and those are shoes to fill and I’m waiting for those young kids to recognize and say ‘hey I’m going to step in this year and play that part’.”