Your Prep Sports
Another incredible volleyball season in the Your Prep Sports area has come to a close.
Last week Clear Creek Amana reached the state semifinals for the second consecutive season in its first ever back-to-back trips to the state tournament.
An exciting week at the state tournament was the end to what was another memorable season of volleyball in the Your Prep Sports area.
Before closing the book on the 2023 season we take a look back at some of the best plays, performances, moments and matches from area players and teams during the season.
Best individual performance: Reese Naeve against Mid-Prairie. In a season filled with incredible performances Naeve was rarely better than she was in a four-set upset of Class 3A No. 12 Mid-Prairie. The Regina sophomore standout had 33 kills on .347 and added 20 digs, two blocks and an ace serve in the win over the Golden Hawks on her way to ranking third in the state this season with 600 kills.
Best individual performance part 2: Emmy McComas against Muscatine. With the season on the line in the regional semifinals McComas came up with perhaps her best performance of the season while helping City High to a five-set win. The junior had a team-high 21 kills and 14 digs to go with two ace serves in the Little Hawks’ come-from-behind win.
Best team performance: Clear Creek Amana at WAMAC Tournament. Clear Creek Amana was among the most impressive teams in the state throughout the season but the Clippers effort in winning the first WAMAC tournament title in program history stood out. In a span of a few hours Clear Creek Amana defeated a trio of top-10 teams, downing No. 10 West Delaware, seventh-ranked Center Point-Urbana and seventh-ranked Marion while dropping just one set to win the WAMAC title.
Coach of the year: Jackie Clubb. Following a Cinderella runner-up finish last season Clear Creek Amana played all fall with a target on its back and nearly pulled off a perfect season. Clubb directed the Clippers to an unbeaten regular season, the first WAMAC conference tournament title in program history, the first back-to-back state tournament berths in program history, a second consecutive 4A semifinal appearance and a 46-1 record.
Coach of the year part 2: Carolyn Giese. A case could be made for several area coaches this season but the job that Giese did in her debut season at City High is more than worthy of mention. In her first season Giese directed a team with two freshmen among five first-time varsity players in the rotation to a 23-10 record, a top-15 ranking in Class 5A and a regional title match appearance.
Co-head coaches of the year: Monica Tylee and Becky Hosier. West Branch took some losses against a challenge schedule (17 to be exact) but the Bears improved every week of the season and were playing their best in the postseason which is a testament to the coach efforts of Tylee and Hosier.
Best clutch performance: Emily Coleman against Lisbon. Talk about saving your best for last. West Branch senior Emily Coleman had four of her 13 kills in the fifth set helping West Branch hold off Lisbon in the regional semifinals. Coleman added seven blocks in the five-set win that sent West Branch to the regional title match.
Comeback player of the year: West High senior Emma Stammeyer. A four-year starter, Stammeyer had the best season of her career this fall after missing nearly half of her junior season. Stammeyer had a career-high 84 kills, led the Trojans with 331 assists and was second on the team with 181 digs.
Most exciting player: Liberty High sophomore Lucy Maassen. At 5-foot-8 Maassen is an explosive athlete and powerful hitter that proved to be as exciting as she was efficient in her first full-time varsity season racking up 252 kills and 40 blocks in the first extended action of her career.
Biggest upset: Solon over Cedar Rapids Xavier. The 2022 Class 4A state champion Saints were a state tournament qualifier against this fall and had just six regular season losses with three coming to Class 5A competition. Solon handed Xavier one of those losses as Jozie Lahr had 12 kills and 12 blocks to help the Spartans win a five-set thriller in Solon.
Best comeback: Liberty High against Muscatine. Trailing Ottumwa two sets to one in its postseason opener the Lightning battled back for a five-set win in a 5A, regional semifinal.
Liberty High won the fourth set 25-22 and scored the final three points of the fifth set after falling behind 13-12 to complete the victory.
Best match: Regina over West Branch. The Bears won the regional rematch a few weeks later but the five-set win for Regina over its River Valley Conference rival was as good of a match as there was all season. Only six points separated the two teams over five sets, the third and fourth sets were each 30-28 and only one set was won by more than three points. Ultimately 29 kills from Naeve and a 15-12 win in the fifth set was enough for Regina to earn the win.
Breakthrough performer: Regina sophomore Kiley Devery. The 6-foot-1 Devery was solid in her varsity debut season a year ago but exploded this fall as a sophomore more than doubling her kill total from a year ago. Devery finished with 337 kills on .268 hitting this season adding 40 blocks and posting career-highs with 101 digs and 33 ace serves.
Most improved: Solon junior Yasmine Sell. A three-year varsity starter Sell was already playing at a high level in her first two seasons but the Solon junior took her all-around game to another level this fall. Sell had a career-high 268 kills and 178 digs this season to go with 69 blocks and led the Spartans with 32 ace serves.
Most versatile: Liberty High junior Asta Hildebrand. Few players in the state can fill the state sheet at as high of a level as Hildebrand who ranked in the top three on the team in kills, assists, blocks and digs. The 6-foot Hildebrand led the Lightning in kills (361), ranked second in assists (392) and digs (299) was third in blocks (42) and fourth in ace serves (22).
Newcomer of the year: Solon sophomore Jozie Lahr. Lahr played sparingly as a freshman recording 19 kills in 29 sets but emerged as a major threat this season for a Solon team that spent most of the season ranked in the top 15 of Class 3A, went 22-15 and reached a regional final. Lahr was a big part of the Spartan’s success ranking second on the team with 202 kills on .304 hitting and leading Solon with 119 blocks.
Under the radar star: Clear Creek Amana senior Sam Schrage. Playing in the shadow of all-staters Bliss Beck and Averie Lower it is season to overlook Schrage but the senior had her own impressive season this fall. Schrage ranked third on the team with 174 kills on .232 hitting and was second on the team with 77 blocks.
Most reliable: City High senior Claire Ernst. For three consecutive seasons when City High needed a point it was Ernst who usually got the call and more times than not she delivered. A four-year starter, Ernst led the Little Hawks in kills for the third consecutive season this fall racking up a career-high 356 kills to push her career total to 1,104.
Unsung hero: West Branch junior Madelyn Falco. Back row players are often overlooked but it was hard to ignore the significance the play of Falco at libero had in the late-season success for West Branch which returned to a regional final for the first time since 2020. Falco had a team-high 360 digs which ranked 23rd in Class 2A.
Most consistent: West High senior Melae’ Lacy. Few players in the state have been as consistently productive over the past four seasons as Lacy who led the Trojans in kills for the fourth consecutive season. Lacy posted her fourth consecutive season with at least 200 kills, finishing with 237 kills this fall and finished her career with 971 kills.
Freshman of the year: Liberty High’s Hadley and Edie Miller. The Millers each had fantastic debut seasons helping a young Liberty High team won 19 matches and advanced to a Class 5A regional final. Edie Miller led Class 5A with 603 digs and was third on the team with 22 ace serves while Hadley Miller led the Lightning with 515 assists and had 92 kills, 264 digs and a team-high 35 ace serves.
Back row player of the year: Clear Creek Amana senior Meg Berkland. A four-year varsity starter Berkland continued to cement her status as one of the top backrow players in the state with a stellar senior season in which she led Class 4A and ranked 10th in the state with 531 digs. Berkland led Clear Creek Amana in digs for the fourth consecutive season and closes her career with 1,778 digs.
Most valuable player: Clear Creek Amana senior Bliss Beck. One of the most dominant players in the state Beck capped a brilliant career with her best season yet while helping the Clippers to the best season in program history. The 6-foot-2 Beck ranked third in Class 4A with 420 kills while leading 4A with a .464 hitting efficiency and 116 blocks as Clear Creek Amana finished 46-1 and advanced to the Class 4A semifinals. A Drake recruit, Beck finished her career with 1,227 kills and 383 blocks.