Unbeaten East Mills volleyball team building on last season’s state appearance

East Mills’ 11th volleyball season represented a breakthrough.

Last year, the school district which includes the towns of Malvern, Hastings, Emerson and Henderson advanced to its first state volleyball tournament. A 24-9 season ended in a 25-10, 25-12, 25-19 Class 1-A quarterfinal loss to Janesville, which swept all three of its matches on its way to the championship.

East Mills is comprised of the former Malvern and Nishna Valley school districts.

Coach Connie Blank has felt the impact of last year’s run to Cedar Rapids.

“For the younger kids, a lot more have come to open gyms,’’ she said. “It’s made a big impact. There’s a lot of excitement, and wanting to get back there. They worked hard this summer.’’

At 11-0, East Mills remains fifth in The World-Herald’s Class 2-A/1-A western Iowa ratings. Carroll Kuemper (5-A/4-A/3-A) and Sidney (2-A/1-A) continued to lead their respective divisions.

East Mills returned four players from last year’s state rotation: juniors Alex Knop and Dezirae Drake, and seniors Madison Williams and Kassidy Croghan.

The 5-foot-9 Knop ranks sixth in 1-A this season in kills per set at 3.96, to go with a .333 hitting percentage. The 5-5 Drake leads the Wolverines in assists per set (4.83) and is a terrific server, keeping in 134 of 135 attempts to go with 28 aces. “She’s a very good spot server,’’ Blank said.

Williams averages 1.39 kills per set, while Croghan pitches in 1.04 kills and ranks second on the team with 63 digs.

The newcomers to the rotation are junior Lexi Ungry and sophomores Rachel Drake and Ebonee Drake. Dezirae and Ebonee Drake are sisters, and Rachel Drake is their cousin. Ungry has joined Dezirae Drake as the setters in the Wolverines’ 6-2 offense, and continuity hasn’t been a problem.

“Dezirae and Lexi have played together since they were in third grade,’’ Blank said. “All of the girls have good all-around skills.’’

Rachel Drake is tied for second with Williams for the team lead in kills per set (1.39).

East Mills’ only match against a team rated in western Iowa was a 25-23, 28-26 win over No. 7 Underwood. The Wolverines have large-school No. 5 Shenandoah in their pool Saturday at the Mount Ayr tournament, and state 4-A No. 15 Winterset is in the opposite pool. Blank’s team also meets Sidney on Tuesday in Malvern.

“I think these next few days will indicate a little better where we’re at,’’ she said. “We’ve just got to go in there and play our best game all the time.’’

Ratings

Class 5-A/4-A/3-A

Rec. LW

1, Carroll Kuemper 16-0 1

2, Sgt. Bluff-Luton 11-1 2

3, CB Abraham Lincoln 10-3 3

4, Sioux City Heelan 5-3 5

5, Shenandoah 8-3 NR

Class 2-A/1-A

1, Sidney 14-2 1

2, Tri-Center 11-4 3

3, Treynor 10-2 4

4, CB St. Albert 10-4 2

5, East Mills 11-0 5

6, West Monona 13-4 7

7, Underwood 6-9 9

8, AHSTW 10-2 6

9, Glidden-Ralston 4-2 NR

10, CAM 11-4 10

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