Kee volleyball team plays to 13-15 record, third-place Upper Iowa Conference finish during 2015 campaign

What looks like it may have been just an average season for the 2015 Kee volleyball team, with a 13-15 season record, was considerably more than that, and had the potential to be something far greater. Within that overall season record, that included another step or two up the competition level ladder this fall, was an Upper Iowa Conference (UIC) record of 7-2 that had the Lady Hawks competing for at least a share of the UIC season championship right up to their final match of the season.
It was eventual UIC champion Starmont that finally dimmed Kee’s hopes of any UIC title this season with losses dealt in both dual match and Upper Iowa Conference Tournament play. The Hawks’ only other dual match losses to a fellow UIC team came at the hands of long-time nemesis Turkey Valley, including Kee’s only other UIC dual match loss in its third-place league finish, as well as an eventual end to the Hawks’ season in Class 1A Regional Tournament play.
“One of our season highlights would have to include finishing the regular season in the top three in conference,” Kee volleyball coach Rich Ellis said. “We beat every large school in our conference that we played during the regular season (in at least one set). I would consider this season a success. It may not show in our win-loss record, but I do feel that this year was a tremendous success. Many of our losses this year came from much larger schools. Only two of our losses came from Turkey Valley, who is our size. Two teams that we lost to were playing in the State Tournament in Class 3A and 5A. Playing teams like this will only help our program improve.”
Four seniors provided the veteran leadership for this season’s squad, bringing an end to some long-running varsity careers with some considerable contributions made to the Kee volleyball program. Ellie Cooper, Mikayla Gavin, Erin Rud and Lily Winters each played their final matches in a Kee volleyball uniform with completion of this 2015 season.
Coach Ellis had this to say about each of those four seniors:
“Lily played all the way around for us and ran the floor as one of the setters. She was a very smart setter and received many comments from opposing coaches and referees. Lily received First Team All-Conference and Academic All-State honors this season.
“Mikayla was a force in the middle, both defensively and on offense. This year she really found her timing on her quick hits and slides, which made her that much more effective this year. Mikayla received Second Team All-Conference.
“Erin has been with the varsity since her sophomore year, playing mainly back row. This year, Erin ended up playing all around and was one of our outside hitters. She was a tremendous leader on and off the floor. She will be missed next year.
“Ellie was our other setter. She has been one of our varsity setters the last two years. Ellie did a great job of mixing up her sets to get all of the hitters involved. She was one of those quiet leaders who led with her actions and not so much vocally.”
“All four of these seniors played vital parts in our program this year and will be very hard to replace,” Coach Ellis shared. “Whoever does end up filling these spots has some very big shoes to fill. I want to wish each of these young women good luck in whatever they decide to pursue. They all will be missed in this program.”
Those big shoes include some statistical leadership numbers. Winters and Ellie Cooper were the Hawks’ setting dynamic duo with a combined 473 out of 532 assists recorded by Kee this season. Ellie Cooper also served at a team-high 95.5% efficiency this season, with Winters serving up the team’s second most aces with 37. Gavin swatted Kee’s highest kill total, with 156, while also recording the most solo blocks, 17, in her team runner-up total of 34 overall blocks behind sophomore Kendra Cooper’s team-high total of 38 denials that included a team-runner-up 15 solo halts.
Kendra Cooper and fellow sophomore Chloe Severson will bring back their own bit of statistical leadership from this season, as the two were second and third on this season’s kill list, respectively. Kendra Cooper also dug up a team-high 135 saves, while Severson served up the team lead in aces, with 47 service winners.
Despite that graduation loss of so much leadership, Coach Ellis still sees a strong future for his program. “We do have four seniors to replace, but I feel strongly that we have girls that can fill those gaps rather nicely,” he said. “I don’t think that there will be much rebuilding necessary as they will be carrying on where we left off and continue to get better.”
In addition to replacing what graduation takes away, Coach Ellis says his squad needs to continue to try and improve what he feels has been his program’s biggest trouble spot. “I feel our greatest challenge seems to be a recurring challenge each year and that is our serve receive and passing,” he explained. “We have girls that really work hard at getting better at this, but it still seems to be our weakest area and our biggest concern.”
With those fundamental aspects being more specific areas in need of improvement, Coach Ellis says the off-season should provide an abundance of opportunity to work on those and many other skills.
“In order to carry on and build off of this year’s success, our girls need to be playing some sort of volleyball in the off-season,” he remarked. “Whether it be club volleyball or just getting in the gym for open gyms, they need to make the commitment to themselves and the team to do their part to get better.”
 

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