West High seniors Ali Tauchen, Emma Norris and Emily Halverson. By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Outside of the gym Emily Halverson, Ali Tauchen and Emma Norris have enough in common to be best friends.
Together on a volleyball court the West High senior trio is different enough to be an opponents’ worst enemy.
“We all have a different style of play so when teams are trying to scout us they will say, ‘well we can do this for this girl but when this girl is up here we have to do something different’,” Tauchen explained. “We are so different and I think it makes us that much harder to defend.”
As individual players Tauchen, Norris and Halverson couldn’t be more different.
From the positions they play to their height and style of attack everything about the three differs.
It is that variance that makes them one of the most potent attacking trios in the state.
“They have different strengths,” West High coach Randy Dolson said. “Whether it’s the slide or the quick or something high on the outside they can still come at people in a variety of ways.”
Tauchen, Norris and Halverson each tallied more than 200 kills a year ago as West High went 27-12 and made a second consecutive Class 5A state tournament appearance.
The trio accounted for 69 percent of West High’s total kills last season combining for 753.
“It’s nice to spread it out,” Norris said. “It works out for us because we are very spread out skill wise.”
Norris led the trio with a team-high 294 kills last year from her outside hitter spot.
The smallest of the group at 5-9, Norris makes up for it her lack of height with explosive leaping ability.
A Western Illinois commit, Norris had 35 kills in three postseason matches last season.
“Emma is really consistent and she is our go to hitter,” Tauchen said. “Anytime we need to go to her we know we can trust her.”
Halverson is the tallest of the trio at 6-foot-2 and does her damage from the middle.
The North Dakota State commit had 201 kills last season and led West High with 90 blocks.
“Emily is the rock of our team,” Tauchen said. “She is dependable and she knows how to talk with everyone and I think those are two really good qualities for her.”
Tauchen is the wildcard of the group with her versatility.
At 6-foot-0, Tauchen has the height to play in the middle and the athletic ability of an outside.
“Ali can play everywhere and that helps us, it’s great that we are a well distributed team,” Halverson said. “Our strength doesn’t just come out of one area we can rely and trust that other areas will get their jobs done as well.”
Tauchen was second on the team with 258 kills a year ago and will get a little late start this season coming off surgery to a torn ACL.
When Tauchen returns she gives West another threat on both offense and defense after posting 89 blocks a year ago.
“Ali and Emily were two of the top blockers in the conference and that is the big thing,” Dolson said. “I think we have enough offense, they can add to the offense, but defensively to have two of the better blockers in the conference is extremely fortunate for us.”
The trio of Halverson, Tauchen and Norris headlines a West High roster loaded with talent.
All seven starters and nine seniors return from last year’s team that lost to Bettendorf in the 5A quarterfinals for the second straight season.
Four of those starters are Division I recruits as senior setter Maddie Fay (South Dakota State) and senior Madi Ford (Drake) join Norris and Halverson.
The 5-foot-10 Fay tallied 814 assists last year while Ford had a team-high 393 digs.
“It’s the most talented group I’ve been around,” Halverson said. “We have nine seniors this year and we’ve all been on the team for a couple of years now.”
The talent doesn’t stop there.
Juniors Colby Greene (115 kills) and Chandler Haight (106 kills) are both back after surpassing 100 kills a year ago and Gabi Delsing, Kei Lang and Gabi Klemme all return with experience in the back row.
With experienced talent across the roster the expectations at West are for more than just another state tournament berth.
“We are definitely wanting to make it past the first round,” Norris said. “We definitely think we can win state, we are working hard and our determination is just heightened this year.”