PELLA—Fresh from its first appearance in the American Rivers Conference tournament since 2016, the Central College volleyball team is bringing back plenty of talent to make back-to-back appearances.
Coach Jeanne Czipri returns four starters and 17 letter winners from the 2021 team that was 15-13 overall and 4-4 in the conference, ranking fifth in the standings. Czipri says the level of talent in the league is high again and the Dutch will have to match it.
“It’s going to be as competitive as it’s ever been since I’ve been here,” she said. “We look forward to the challenge of improving athleticism and skills that we will see through the net. We hope to mirror that high competitiveness on our side.”
The players showed up for training last week and Czipri is happy with the team’s start.
“We arrived fit and ready to play,” she said. “It made pre-season really exciting and we are making good progress.”
This momentum begins with the leadership of the team, including its five captains Rachel Pella (senior, Kansas City, Missouri, Park Hill HS) Kate Pachner (elder, Akron, Colorado), Amanda Smith (senior, setter, Tipton), Kaylin Carel (senior, right hitter St. Michael, Minn., St. Michael-Albertville HS and Elysee Johnson (junior, middle hitter, Kirksville, Mo.).
“They are organized, empathetic hard workers and they are extremely competitive,” Czipri said. “The team learns a lot from their leadership.”
Leading a 6-2 offense last year, Smith and Adisyn Illg (elder, Johnsburg, Illinois) intermediate time to the setter. Both are seasoned veterans and capable of leading the offense. Smith led the team with 498 assists and Illg led the team with 31 service aces.
“They bring different strengths to the court,” Czipri said. “Amanda moves so well and improves the ball with her athleticism. Adisyn keeps our pace and brings a fierceness to the pitch.”
Chloe Waltrip (sophomore, Haysville, Kansas, Cheyney) is the only other returning passer on the roster. She is joined by a handful of freshmen to provide additional options behind Smith and Illg.
“We have freshmen pushing seniors,” Czipri said. “They are fantastic athletes with very strong hands. Once they get comfortable with our offense, it will be a question of who connects best with which hitters and puts them in the best positions to score. “
Right side hitter / outside hitter
Central will have to fill the void left by the graduation of four-year starter selection and all the conferences Krissa Larson out. Nathalie Gaszynski (elder, Huntley) and Gracie Pierson (sophomore, Lake City, Minnesota) were No. 2 and No. 3 on the team in eliminations with 177 and 156, respectively. Taryn Hintz (junior, Primghar, South O’Brien HS) flashed potential in his first season, playing just 38 sets but registering 58 kills and 16 blocks.
“Natalie will be our only four-year varsity throwback, and her versatility and quick arm will be an asset to both bowling,” Czipri said. “Taryn and Gracie are probably the most athletically dynamic kids in the gym and bring physical to our team. it really stands out.”
Taylor Richards (elder, Ankeny) is another veteran arm on the outside, having earned his second varsity letter in 2021. Lexie Buls (senior, Kearney, Missouri)Carl and Gracie Daniels (junior, Broken Arrow, Okla.) also have university experience.
“Taylor doesn’t have a lot of match experience but she elevates this group with her consistency,” Czipri said. “Gracie is such a fierce competitor who wants her team to win. She’s got a lot of punches in her tool belt.”
Alexah Mellenberger (sophomore, New Glarus, Wis.) and Zoe Lutz (sophomore, Council Bluffs, Lincoln HS) were part of the reserve team in 2021 and will fight for a place with the university.
Pella erupted in 2021, recording 46 blocks and 140 kills while patrolling the middle. Lauren Brown (young, Underwood) and Emma Wagler (sophomore, Des Moines, Roosevelt HS) played in reserve roles and still secured 17 blocks each. Johnson is a possibility in the middle as well as on the right side.
We anticipate a lot of competition from our four returning academia,” Czipri said. “They all have different strengths, both offensively and defensively. Who’s on the pitch will probably depend on who our opponent is on the other side of the net.”
Central also lost a mainstay at the libero as the team’s former captain and all-conference honorable pick. Landry Luhring. Luckily, Central has a plethora of good options to fill that spot.
“The position is wide open,” Czipri said. “We have several women competing strongly for this role. This is probably the strongest Libero group we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
Senior Sam Worley (Olathe, Kan., Northwest HS) and second Becca Vala (Omaha, Neb., Elkhorn HS) played in over 75 sets and achieved 146 and 175 digs respectively.
A pair of Colorado natives Pachner and Ivet Flores (sophomore, Windsor, Colorado) both played in college games and should be considered when discussing libero and defensive specialists.
“There’s a lot of competition and depth,” Czipri said. “Kate and Sam are excellent senior leaders and teammates. Becca and Ivett are also returning winners who are in strong competition for this role.”
Emilie Beldock (sophomore, Davenport Central HS), Toni Berns (sophomore, Chandler, Arizona, Corona del Sol HS) and Gwen Kalke (sophomore, Blandinsville, IL, West Prairie HS) all played in reserve games last year and give Czipri more options to watch,
And Czipri hasn’t ruled out a newcomer contributing to that role.
“The three of them have great ball control and athleticism to make that position even stronger,” Czipri said.
The Dutch volleyball coaching staff has grown to eight members for 2021. Czipri is back for the sixth year and is joined by a new full-time assistant, Laura of Rosales. A former all-conference libero at Carthage College (Wis.), de Rosales was a Division I graduate assistant at Merrimack College (Mass.) in 2021.
“It was fabulous working with her and she is already leaving her mark on the program,” Czipri said. “Her coaching skills and her confidence make it easy for our girls to follow her example.”
A group of six part-time or volunteer helpers includes a four-year-old winner Erin Dilger and the return of Molly MacQueeney who was part of the program for three years, from 2018 to spring 2021. Cyndi Boertje (fourth season), Nicole Green (third season), Joanna settles down (second season) and Sam Leverenz (first season) complete the coaching staff.
Central opens the season Friday, Sept. 2 at 8 p.m. against Bethany Lutheran College
(Minn.) as the opener of the Central-Grinnell Invitational.