KEOSAUQUA — Behind every great hitter is a great setter. Or is it a great passer?
What about those that take the brunt of the hits to make those hitters better?
Van Buren County High School volleyball players Shea Scott, Kadence Nusbaum and Lexi Jirak, among others, fall into that last category. Their statistics aren’t glorified, but their work as foils to Salena Sayre, Grace Davidson and Taryn Scheuermann in practice doesn’t go unnoticed.
“They’re such good players,” said Scott, a sophomore. “(Kadence and I) are the future of the program, so while we’re making them better, we’re also making ourselves a lot better. We’ve learned how to read their hits.”
Sayre, Davidson and Scheuermann have over 1,000 kills between them this season — 1,056 to be exact. They’ve done plenty in the offseason to improve themselves, but seeing a variety of shots has benefited those who will lead the program in the future.
“I kind of know where they like to hit the ball, but you still have to watch the shoulders,” said senior Lexi Jirak, who plays all six rotations during practices when she’s not playing varsity.
Sayre, Davidson and Scheuermann all have unique hitting styles. Sayre is sheer power, while Davidson is power and placement. Scheuermann hits more down on the ball because of her 6-foot-3 frame in the middle of the net.
“Grace really likes the 10-foot line,” said Nusbaum, a sophomore and the team’s backup libero to Isabel Manning. “That’s just her natural ability, but all three of them have gotten stronger, and that’s helped them a lot. It’s also good for me to learn from Isabel about digging a hard hit.”
“Taryn is very hard to receive the ball from because it’s coming straight down,” Jirak said. “Her reflexes have gotten so much better. You expect to get a ball tipped at the net, but it takes control to get it back up.”
“Salena just hits it down,” Scott said. “Sometimes you don’t know where it’s going.”
The contributions of the players isn’t lost on coach Matt Zeitler, who has the school in its first state tournament in a girls sport.
“They do an excellent job. Once you’ve taken 35 hits from Sayre, you get a little tired,” he said. “They have to adjust to a lot of different styles. Salena and Grace can jump so high, and Taryn is playing her best volleyball in four years.”
Again Dyersville Beckman, the Warriors’ Class 2A quarterfinal opponent today, the players have to assume the roles of some of Beckman’s players, particularly the blockers.
Still, they’re all cherishing this run to the state tournament, especially Jirak.
“You feel like every team is there for a reason,” Jirak said. “It’s just a matter of who shows up. I think the North Scott tournament was where we really felt what it was like to compete with some great teams.
“I don’t play a lot, but these girls are my best friends,” she said. “Seeing them accomplish what they have, and being the first girls team to get to state is huge.”