Independence has basically the same volleyball roster as last year. But some of the Mustangs are doing different things.
Take Abby Davis, for example.
“She was one of our setters last year, we switched things around, and she’s a defensive specialist now,” Indee Coach Joe Schmitz said. “She’s done a great job in that role. She took it well.”
Then there’s the star, Madison Larson.
“As a sophomore, she was exclusively a middle hitter. Last year, she floated around more,” Schmitz said. “Now she’s mostly on the outside.”
After a couple of early bumps, Independence is at full throttle now. The Class 4A fourth-ranked Mustangs (22-2) ran their winning streak to 17 consecutive matches with a sweep of South Tama on Tuesday, wrapping up at least a share of the Wamac Conference West Division title.
“We’ve got a nice blend with good senior leadership and some younger kids that have contributed a lot,” said Schmitz, in his ninth year at Independence and his 23rd year overall.
The key player is Larson, a Winona State University commit who averages 4.25 kills per set and the owner of a .387 kill efficiency. Larson has added “a power tip to her game” this year, Schmitz said. “She does a good job identifying open spots in the floor.”
Senior Mackenzie Hupke, juniors Allie Jo Zieser and Alaina Butters and sophomore Reese Martin provide other options in the Mustangs’ new 5-1 attack, directed by senior setter Holly Cooksley (9.8 assists per set).
Hupke served nine aces Tuesday.
Independence received a boost when Abby Meiborg — who has suffered multiple knee injuries — was medically cleared for the stretch run, but it will be a gradual process working the veteran into form.
The Mustangs won the Dubuque Invitational on Saturday, topping four 5A schools, including Iowa City High in the championship match.
River Valley Conference newcomer Anamosa clinched at least a share of the North Division title when it swept Northeast on Tuesday at Goose Lake.
The Raiders (19-11, 5-1) came to the RVC from the Wamac, where they had struggled mightily in volleyball. Anamosa suffered through a 71-match divisional losing streak before breaking through with a pair of wins last season.
Anamosa established itself as a contender Sept. 6, when it defeated Camanche — then ranked No. 7 in Class 3A — in a five-setter at home. Camanche (19-3, 4-1) still has a chance to earn a share of the title, as does Cascade (17-5, 3-1).
Four of the Raiders’ top five hitters are seniors, led by Corinne Gadient (2.45 kills per set).
Eyes on Waverly
Arguably the best two teams in the area, Class 5A No. 4 Cedar Rapids Jefferson (18-3) and 2A No. 2 Dyersville Beckman (31-0) both will be part of the Waverly-Shell Rock Invitational tournament Saturday.
Beckman is one of four remaining unbeatens in Iowa.
The field at Waverly also features 2A No. 1 Grundy Center, as well as 3A heavyweights Solon, Osage and Mount Vernon.
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Meanwhile, 4A No. 2 Cedar Rapids Xavier (19-3) heads to Chicago to face a gauntlet at the Asics Invitational Friday and Saturday. The Saints’ competition includes Louisville (Ky.) Assumption, the top-rated team in the nation.
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